Adolescent Risk-Taking: Background

Injury is the leading cause of death among Canadians ages 1 to 44 years [1], as well as the leading cause of hospitalization among 10-14 year old Canadians [2]. In 2004, injury among Canadians resulted in 13,677 deaths, over 211,000 hospitalizations, over 3 million emergency department visits, with 67,000 people permanently disabled, $10.7 billion in direct health care costs, and $19.8 billion in total economic costs [3].

Due to this burden, the Public Health Agency of Canada named injury as one its leading priorities for Canadian children and adolescents and supported the development of a youth injury report [4]. Health promotion initiatives aimed at the prevention of injury require foundational epidemiological information to inform their development and targeting. Currently, national information on the magnitude, scope and nature of this obvious health priority is scarce.

One of the few national youth surveys that include information on injury occurrence and prevention is the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey. HBSC is a cross-national survey that informs understanding of young people’s behaviours and attitudes, and the impacts on their health. The target age group in this survey is ages 11-15 and the survey is conducted in 43 countries.

Data collection is carried out every four years using a common research protocol. Canada con-ducted its sixth survey in 2010, with approximately 26,500 students from 480 Canadian schools participa¬ting. The HBSC survey instrument consists of a standard questionnaire developed and approved by the HBSC Principal Investigator Assembly. Each HBSC survey questionnaire contains a core set of mandatory questions on: background factors (e.g. demographics and socio-econo¬mic status), individual and social resources (e.g. descriptions of family, peer-group, and school environ¬ments), health behaviours (e.g. physical activity, diet, violence) and health outcomes (e.g. injuries). HBSC provides a rare glimpse into health problems, including injury, in the early adolescent years in Canada.


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Leading Causes of Death, Canada, 2005, Males and Females Combined.
  2. Public Health Agency of Canada. Leading Causes of Hospitalizations, Canada, 2005/06, Males and Females Combined.
  3. SMARTRISK. The Economic Burden of Injury in Canada. SMARTRISK: Toronto, ON. 2009.
  4. Leitch K. Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children & Youth. 2007 Available at:

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