“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Half Of Female Students Experience Psychological Distress

Half Of Female Students Experience Psychological Distress

For the first time, just over 50 per cent of female students in Ontario show signs of moderate to serious psychological distress, according to the latest Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), released by Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Psychological distress - which refers to symptoms of anxiety or depression - has been rising steadily among all Ontario students in Grades 7 to 12 since it was first monitored in 2013.

However, girls seem to fare worse on this and other mental health measures.

"Female students are more than twice as likely as males to report elevated stress, poor mental health, seeking mental health counselling, thoughts of suicide, and being prescribed medication for anxiety or depression," says Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Senior Scientist in CAMH's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, and survey co-lead.

The 2017 OSDUHS, which surveyed 11,435 students, is Canada's longest-running study of mental health and substance use among youth.

Technology and social media

Technology and social media use have also increased. In total, 20 per cent of students spend five or more hours on social media a day, compared to 11 per cent in 2013. And nearly one-third (30 per cent) spent five or more hours a day, in their free time, on electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, computers and gaming consoles.

Five per cent of secondary school students reported symptoms suggesting they had a serious problem with use of technology. For the first time, the survey included questions on these symptoms, which included a preoccupation with technology, a loss of control, withdrawal symptoms, and problems with family and friends.

"While the survey can't tell us whether technology use causes mental health issues, or vice versa, there is some evidence from other studies that there may be a link," says CAMH Senior Scientist Dr. Robert Mann, co-lead of the survey.

Concussions and other injury risks

A total of 36 per cent of students say they've had a concussion in their lifetime, and 15 per cent - about 130,700 students - experienced a concussion in the past year. The most common reported causes of concussion were playing hockey or another team sport. This was the first time students were asked about concussion.

And 33 per cent of students who drive still report that they text and drive, a figure that has not changed since 2015, even though the provincial government strengthened distracted driving laws that year with new penalties for texting and driving. "We know that distracted driving leads to collisions and injuries, so reducing texting and driving among students is crucial," says Dr. Mann.

Mental health care

One in four students visited a professional for a mental health issue over the past year, a figure that has remained stable from past surveys. Five per cent of secondary school students were prescribed a medication for anxiety, depression, or both, and about three per cent of all students sought help by calling a telephone counselling helpline or over the internet.

Still, nearly one-third said they wanted to talk to someone about their mental health, but did not know where to turn. Almost four in 10 said that they rarely or never talk to their parents about their problems or feelings.

"These findings, coupled with the results showing increasing psychological distress and suicidal ideation, underscore the critical importance of creating youth-friendly spaces that provide a range of services," says Dr. Joanna Henderson, Director, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health at CAMH and Executive Director of Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO). YWHO will target the needs of 12 to 25-year-olds as integrated "one-stop-shops" for mental health, substance use, primary care, education/employment/training, housing and other community and social services.

Positive trends

On a positive note, there have been significant declines over the past two decades in violent behaviour, carrying a weapon and physical fighting at school.

"The majority of students - 81 per cent - report that they like school to some degree, and nearly half like school quite a lot or very much," says Dr. Hamilton.

While being a victim of bullying at school is still reported by 21 per cent of students, it has also dropped from 33 per cent since 2003. The same percentage, 21 per cent, report being cyber-bullied, which has not changed from previous surveys.


Disclaimer: anxietycentre.com is not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted at anxietycentre.com by contributing institutions or for the use of any information throughout anxietycentre.com's system.


The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:

Anxiety Counseling
Learn More
Available Therapists
Learn More
Book An Appointment
Learn More
Anxiety Symptoms
Learn More
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Learn More
Panic Attack Symptoms
Learn More
Recovery Support
Learn More
Anxiety
Learn More
Anxiety 101
Learn More

Return to our anxiety research page.

Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated November 20, 2018.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the latest in anxiety research: Psychological Stress Can Make Pain Worse.