The covid pandemic marked a before and after in the way in which young people face risk behaviors such as unprotected sex, reckless driving, fights, or drug use. After confinement, not only did some of these behaviors increase, but also their frequency and the conviction among many young people that taking these risks "pays off."
Now, the data from the latest Youth Health and Wellbeing Barometer published today by Fundación Mutua Madrileña and Fad Juventud suggest that 2023 may mean a turning point: the performance of risk behaviors with high frequency, which had not stopped growing since 2017, shows a slight decline compared to 2021, although it remains well above 2019.
Unprotected or risky sexual practices and participation in fights are the most widespread. More than half (51.1%) have had this type of sexual practice at least once in the last half year and 19% admit that they do it with some frequency. And as far as fights are concerned, 41% have participated in one in the last six months and 9.2% do it often. The percentage of those who frequently end up being smacked is higher among boys (11.4%) and adolescents (11.4%).
Other risky behaviors that seem to compensate young people are driving under the influence of alcohol (26.6% have done it at some point in the last half year) or after consuming joints (21% admit to having done so).
The authors of the Youth Barometer explain that during the pandemic the compensation figures for risks skyrocketed and even today, if the figures are compared with those of 2019, young people continue to put the benefits ahead of the risks of certain practices.
It is true that the percentage of young people who find it acceptable to get drunk without losing consciousness has somewhat reduced (from 26.3% in 2021 to 17.6% now), but the percentage of young people remains quite stable or even grows. who accept without hesitation driving when they have consumed drugs or alcohol (8%), not using protection in sexual relations (12%), using cocaine or pills (8%), getting into fights (9.3%) or driving at high speed (14.7%).
According to Fad Juventud sources, "it could be a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic situation and the consequent exacerbation of the idea of maximum enjoyment as a life model."
And gender and age have a very clear impact when it comes to taking risks. This conviction that it is worth taking risks if it is about enjoyment is greater among men and among the youngest, those between 15 and 19 years old.
Some examples: getting drunk is an activity that "rewards a lot or quite a bit" for 19.6% of adolescents in that age group, compared to 14.7% of young people between 25 and 29 years old. And if it is about having unprotected relationships or getting into fights: the percentage of those who see it as acceptable to take that risk is double among those aged 15-19 (16.8% and 12.2%, respectively). than among those who are ten years older (8.7% and 5.9%).
The difference by sex is very pronounced, for example, when it comes to having unprotected sexual relations: only 9% of women take that risk, compared to 15.2% of men. And there is also a gap when it comes to getting into fights: 5.4% of them compared to 12.7% of them.
"Men clearly stand out above women when it comes to carrying out risky behaviors: 1 in ten carry out these actions with some frequency, and they surpass women by 5 percentage points, practically doubling their percentages" , say the authors of the report.
Beyond their penchant for risky behavior, the Mutua Madrileña and Fad Foundation's Youth Barometer reveals that half of young people consider that they are in good health and lead a healthy lifestyle, but six out of ten surveyed claim to have suffered some mental health problem in the last year and more than half report suffering stress due to studies or work or due to the economic situation.
And a worrying fact: fewer young people have never thought about committing suicide (47%) than those who have (49%). Specifically, one in four young people has ever experienced suicidal ideation, 11.3% think about suicide with some frequency and 13.8% very frequently or continuously.