Good health keeps Indian students ahead

Indian students in New Zealand enjoy better physical and mental health compared to their Asian and European counterparts, a Survey has revealed.

But it also highlighted some problem areas including depression and suicidal tendencies among a small segment of the student population.

The Report, titled, Youth 2007- Health and Wellbeing of Secondary School Students in New Zealand studied various aspects of schoolchildren of among different ethnic groups in the country.

It was the second Survey of its time during a ten-year period.

University of Auckland Professor of Epidemiology and Deputy Head of the School of Population Shanthi Ameratunga, one of the authors of the Report, said Indian students enrolled in Secondary Schools in New Zealand experienced less depression compared to other ethnic groups.

“A majority of Indian students enjoyed good mental and emotional health, indicating positive psychological wellbeing, based on the WHO-5 Wellbeing Index.

“About 29% of the respondents scored ‘Very Good,’ 25% ‘Excellent,’ and 24% ‘Good.’

There were 1310 participants representing the ‘Asian Group,’ from around the country,” she said.

For purposes of clarity, the Study segregated people of Indian Origin as a separate group and citizens of other countries of Asia (predominantly Chinese) as ‘Asian,’ conforming to the reference of these groups in conversations and media reports.

According to the Report, 23% of Indian students said they suffered from poor mental and emotional health. Female students represented a higher share (30%) compared to male students (17%) of the total recorded in this segment.

Depression Syndrome

Ms Ameratunga said depressive symptoms were measured using the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale (RADS).

“High levels of symptoms detected using the RADS are likely to correlate with clinically significant depression and require mental health assessment and intervention. Scores indicating significant depressive symptoms were reported by 12% of Indian students, with a markedly higher prevalence among females (18%) than males (7%). The proportion of Indian students who scored at a level indicating significant depressive symptoms (12%) was higher than that among New Zealand European students (9%). However, the difference was not significant after controlling for socio-economic variables,” she said.

The Report took into account socio-economic differences between Indian and New Zealand European students.

Other unrelated reports released in the past had shown general apathy among the Indian population to seek counselling to redress their mental or emotional problems. This factor was evident in the ‘Youth 2007 Report’ as well.

Suicide trends

Ms Ameratunga said that only 12% of the Indian students had seen a health professional for emotional worries in the previous 12 months. Over the same period, about 2% of Indian students had inflicted self-harm that required treatment, 17% had suicidal tendencies, 10% had made a plan to kill themselves, and 6% had attempted suicide.

Surprisingly, the number of female Indian students considering suicide was higher (25%) than male students.

“While a majority of Indian students (87%) reported that they were ‘OK,’ ‘Very Happy’ or ‘Satisfied with life,’ they were less compared to their European counterparts (93%). After taking into consideration socio-economic variables, the difference was not significant,” the Report said.

The Study partly explained the socio-economic differences that contributed to the disparity between ethnic groups.

About 49% of the Indian students lived in neighbourhoods with medium levels of deprivation, followed by 29% who were in neighbourhoods with high levels of deprivation and 22% in neighbourhoods with low levels of deprivation.

Is the smoking habit more prevalent among Indian students, compared to Chinese or other Asian Groups?

The Report examined the issue in details and came to some interesting conclusions.

“The prevalence of smoking, measured both in terms of ever smoking a cigarette and of smoking weekly or more often, had substantially decreased among Chinese students since the 2001 survey. In contrast, these indicators showed little change among Indian students over the same period,” it said.

Alcohol presented a lesser problem among the Chinese (35%) and Indian (34%) students, compared to New Zealand European students (66%).

“While Chinese and Indian students were less likely than New Zealand European students to be binge drinkers, about 16% reported binge drinking on at least one occasion in the previous four weeks of the Survey.”

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