By SARA ARTHURS
Staff Writer

Hancock County residents aren’t smoking as much as we used to, but more of us have diabetes — and we’re drinking a lot.

Those were among the results of the newly released 2018 Community Health Assessment, which compiled information from surveys of adults, teens, and parents of young children to gain a picture of the county’s health.

The results showed that low-income residents and those who have survived difficult childhoods are far more likely to have certain health issues than those who have not.

Twenty-three percent of adults reported that they had five or more alcoholic drinks (for males) or four or more (for females) on an occasion in the last month, which is considered binge drinking. The figure was 19 percent in 2015, and 15 percent in 2011.

Five percent of current adult drinkers reported driving a vehicle after having perhaps too much to drink during the preceding month, increasing to 8 percent for males.

Twenty percent of adults and 28 percent of youth drivers reported texting while driving.

Among youths, the number who ever drank alcohol decreased from 37 percent to 34 percent, and the percent who are current drinkers remained steady at 12 percent.

The number of youth who are binge drinkers decreased from 7 percent to 5 percent. But 37 percent of youth who reported drinking had at least one episode of binge drinking.

Ten percent of adults said they currently smoke, down from 13 percent in 2015.

Misuse of prescription medication has also gone down, from 9 percent to 7 percent.

The number of youths who have ever tried cigarettes decreased from 22 percent to 10 percent, and the number who are current smokers decreased from 7 percent to 4 percent.

Violence among youth, however, was identified as a concern in the first meeting of community leaders discussing the report, said Hancock Public Health Commissioner Karim Baroudi.

Four percent of youths said they were in a physical fight in the past 12 months, up from 3 percent. Eleven percent had carried a weapon in the past 30 days, up from 8 percent.

Bullying is down from 51 percent to 43 percent, and electronic bullying has gone down from 13 percent to 11 percent.

But the percentage who said they were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past 12 months increased from 5 percent to 9 percent, and the number who experienced physical dating violence increased from 4 percent to 6 percent.

In the past year, 20 percent of youth surveyed reported purposely hurting themselves.

The percentage of youths who seriously considered attempting suicide decreased from 13 percent to 12 percent, and the number who attempted suicide decreased from 7 percent to 6 percent. However, 25 percent said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row, so that they stopped doing some usual activities.

Five percent of adults said they had considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, up from 4 percent in 2015. However, zero percent of those surveyed had attempted suicide, down from 1 percent.

This figure does not mean no one in Hancock County attempted suicide, but rather that none of the adults who received the survey had done so.

Baroudi said the fact that the number of people considering suicide has increased, but the number attempting has decreased, may indicate that more people thinking of suicide are reaching out for help, or that their loved ones saw red flags and reached out.

But, he said, this number doesn’t reflect the residents who did die by suicide, which is increasing locally as well as nationally.

Baroudi said information on sexual behavior also particularly stood out, as sexually transmitted infections have been on the rise.

The number of youth who had ever had sexual intercourse decreased from 15 percent to 9 percent. However, the percent who had used a condom during their last sexual intercourse decreased from 54 percent to 29 percent.

Sixty-seven percent of adults reported having had sexual intercourse in the past year, and 4 percent had more than one partner. Thirty-one percent of adults had sex without a condom in the past year.

In 2018, 51 percent of Hancock County adults rated their health status as excellent or very good. Eleven percent described their health as fair or poor, increasing to 33 percent of those with incomes less than $25,000.

Sixty percent of adults with higher incomes rated their health as excellent or very good, compared with 18 percent of those with incomes less than $25,000.

Twenty-two percent rated their physical health as not good on four or more days, and 32 percent rated their mental health as not good on four or more days. This was most common among those with an annual household income of less than $25,000 (43 percent) and those under age 30 (36 percent).

Baroudi said there is a disconnect, in that people report their health is excellent or very good, but more people were overweight or obese or had diabetes than in the past.

Seventy-two percent of adults were overweight or obese, including 85 percent of those earning less than $25,000. The percentage of youth who are obese decreased from 15 percent to 13 percent, and the percentage who are overweight remained steady at 12.

Twelve percent of adults had been diagnosed with diabetes, including 23 percent of those earning less than $25,000 and 10 percent of those earning more. In 2015, 9 percent of adults said they had been diagnosed with diabetes, up from 6 percent in 2011.

Adults who experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences were more likely to be a smoker (34 percent, compared with 8 percent of those who did not experience any) and more likely to have contemplated suicide in the past 12 months (24 percent, compared with 2 percent).

Among youth who experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences, 23 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared with 3 percent of those who did not experience any adverse childhood experiences. They were also more likely to have had at least one drink of alcohol (44 percent, compared with 6 percent) and to have had sexual intercourse (67 percent compared with 3 percent). The percentage who were bullied was the same, at 31 percent.

Baroudi said understanding the connection with adverse childhood experiences is important, as it allows health officials to “define the target population” when they’re trying to address these issues. And, he said, adverse childhood experiences are interwoven with all the other issues.

Among young children through age 5, the number who had two or more visits to the emergency room in the past year decreased from 9 percent to 2 percent. But the figure among children 6 to 11 increased from 2 percent to 4 percent.

Eight percent of younger children did not get all of their recommended vaccinations.

Children living in a household where someone uses cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco decreased from 17 percent to 15 percent among kids zero to 5, and from 22 percent to 13 percent among those 6 to 11.

Seventeen percent of mothers experienced depression during or after their last pregnancy.

The number of adults without health insurance, which had decreased from 8 percent in 2011 to 3 percent in 2015, has now gone back up to 5 percent.

Twelve percent of all residents, and 16 percent of children and youth, were living in poverty.

Ten percent of youth reported they went to bed hungry on one or more days because their family did not have enough money for food at least one night per week. And 2 percent of adults said they went hungry or ate less to provide more food for their family.

Thirty-two percent of adults said they had been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia — a new question this year.

Also new this year were questions about diversity. Baroudi said these questions arose as it’s important, in public health, to understand the population.

Twenty-one percent of adults strongly agreed that the Findlay/Hancock County area is a place that welcomes and embraces diversity. However, 36 percent of employed adults felt their employer was very committed to the promotion and advancement of a generally diverse workforce.

Nineteen percent felt it was very important to live in a diverse neighborhood, 42 percent said it was somewhat important, and 39 percent that it was not important. And 21 percent of adults strongly agreed that they were tired of hearing, reading and/or learning about diversity.

The 2018 health assessment data were obtained by independent researchers from the Toledo-based Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio and their partners at the University of Toledo. Surveys were administered to a random sample of adults 19 and older; youth 12 to 18 years old; and parents of children 11 and younger.

Baroudi encouraged “each and every citizen” to become familiar with the report. And if you have any questions about health in the community, “just reach out.”

Hancock Public Health can be reached at 419-424-7105.

The health department is currently conducting a related quality of life survey, and is encouraging as many community members as possible to take it soon. It can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HanCHIP.

Arthurs: 419-427-8494
Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
Twitter: @swarthurs

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