The recent media report revealing the statistics from the nationwide Student’s Health Survey done between April and August 2006 by the Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) reminded me of a couple of sayings on statistics.

Like Aaron Levenstein and Storm P said Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital” and “Statistics are like lampposts: they are good to lean on, but they don’t shed much light“, indeed, the statistics reported on the media is so little and there is nowhere on the HPB website to see the details.

Another saying by Evan Esar that statistics is the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.

Yes, experts like youth counselor, Ms Carol Balhetchet whom I guessed had her hands on the statistics, commented that as compared with other surveys, the following statistics seemed low – that “4 per cent of all Secondary 3 and 4 respondents have had sex and half of this group had sex before they were 15, and one-quarter of them had sex more than five times in the past 12 months”.

Was that because the 3,844 Secondary 1 to 4 students from 51 schools had to fill out the anonymous questionnaires in class where a teacher was present? Thus they did not answer what they should to avoid embarrassment. 

The regular teen smokers remain at 2 per cent. Lesser teens are likely to try smoking, down 19 per cent from 26 per cent in year 2000 yet half of teen smokers picked it up before the age of 12 and 19 per cent of them do not think it is harmful.

Come to healthy eating of two serving of fruits and vegetables every day, more than 70 per cent of the respondents knew. Given the ubiquitous availability of delicious sugary and deep-fried foods throughout the island, it is no surprise to me that they said that they are fond of. Exercise was not a top priority – not surprising again. Boys were more than twice as likely to exercise than girls – most boys like outdoor sports like soccer? 

Can I conclude that these questions are easier to answer than the sensitive sex and smoking ones?

Anyway, healthy teens are the future and health of our country. That is why the HPB wants to focus on their practices and attitudes towards smoking, sex, diet, exercise and mental health (report is under evaluation) because many habits which persist in adulthood are formed in one’s teens”.  It hoped that this survey will provide the baseline data for future youth health initiatives in shaping these habits.

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