Two new features in the Arab Youth Survey this year will give regional policymakers food for thought: The increasing use of illegal drugs in the region, and concerns about mental health and how it is treated in the Arab world.
Despite the universal criminal status of illegal drugs and strong penalties for their use in almost all of the countries polled, many young Arabs reported that drug use was on the rise, and drugs were easy to obtain in their countries.
A total of 57 percent of respondents said that more drugs were being used and that they were easy to get hold of. Even in the GCC, where most said that drugs were hard to obtain, only 30 percent said that drug use was in decline.
More than three-quarters of those polled in the Levant (76 percent) said drug use was on the rise, as well as 59 percent in North Africa.
Encouragement by friends at school and work, stress and boredom were cited as the top three reasons for the increase.
Young Arabs thought that stricter laws and more enforcement would help to stop the spread of drugs, with smaller numbers opting for awareness and counseling.
While the poll results on mental illness were less clear-cut, there was still widespread concern among young people about its incidence in their societies. Half of those polled said there was a stigma attached to mental health issues.
Only 31 percent said they knew of someone facing mental health issues, spread evenly across the three sub-regions. But 54 percent said that qualified medical care was difficult to access in their countries. In the strife-torn Levant, 81 percent said it was difficult to get proper care.
What causes the stress many young people suffer differed across the region. In the GCC, personal relationships were cited as the biggest source of stress, followed closely by academic factors.
In the Levant, however, respondents cited lack of national safety and security as the major cause of stress.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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