What Doctors Know: New survey offers inside look at risky behavior among today’s teens
By Larry Myers and Bonnie Jean Thomas,
WHAT THE REPORT FOUND
“When I was your age…”
There’s a certain time in our lives — somewhere between being a parent and a grandparent — when we look at today’s generation and come to the conclusion: “Kids were different in our day.”
Generation after generation continues to come to this conclusion, but with little supporting data. Well, that supporting data has finally arrived. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a yearly study of teenage behavior that could supply answers to questions we’ve been asking about “youngsters” for generations.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) consists of 86 standard questions, focused on behaviors of teens across the country.
Taking a sampling of teens from regular public and private schools with students in at least one of grades 9-12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the study reviewed a number of behaviors, as well as the leading causes of death among youth and adults in the U.S. The report broke down all the data using six categories of health-risk behaviors:
1. Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence
2. Tobacco use
3. Alcohol and other drug use
4. Sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV infection
5. Unhealthy dietary behaviors
6. Physical inactivity
These behaviors frequently are interrelated and established during childhood and adolescence years and extend into adulthood. To monitor priority health-risk behaviors in each of these six categories and obesity and asthma among youth and young adults, the CDC developed the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS).
In the U.S., 70 percent of all deaths among youth and young adults aged 10-24 years result from four causes:
1. Motor vehicle crashes (23 percent),
2. Other unintentional injuries (18 percent),
3. Homicide (15 percent), and
4. Suicide (15 percent)
Also alarming among youth 15-19 years, are the social problems resulting from:
— An estimated 329,772 births
— 548,032 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis
— And 2,240 cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reported annually.
— Among adults aged less than 25 years, 57 percent of all deaths in the U.S. result from cardiovascular disease (33 percent) and cancer (24 percent).
UNINTENTIONAL INJURIES AND VIOLENCE
1. Driving, drinking and texting
For example, among those who drove a car 30 days before the survey, 41.4 percent of high school students had texted or e-mailed while driving.
Approximately 10 percent had driven a car while drinking and 21.9 percent had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking.
The prevalence of having driven a car or other vehicle when they’d been drinking alcohol was higher among male (12.0 percent) than female (7.8 percent) students.
2. Carried a weapon
Nationwide, 17.9 percent of students had carried a weapon (e.g., gun, knife, or club) on at least one day during the 30 days before the survey. The prevalence of having carried a weapon was higher among male (28.1 percent) than female (7.9 percent) students and higher among white males (33.4 percent).
An estimated 5.2 percent carried a weapon on school property at least one day during the 30 days before the survey.
3. Bullied others
During the 12 months before the survey, 14.8 percent of students had been electronically bullied, including being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting.
Approximately 7.1 percent of students hadn’t gone to school on at least one day during the 30 days before the survey because they felt they’d be unsafe at school or on their way to or from school (i.e., did not go to school because of safety concerns). The prevalence of having not gone to school because of safety concerns was higher among female (8.7 percent) than male (5.4 percent) students.
A reported 19.6 percent said they had been bullied on school property.
4. Sexual violence
Of those surveyed, 7.3 percent of students had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. The prevalence of having been forced to have sexual intercourse was higher among female (10.5 percent) than male (4.2 percent)
Among the 73.9 percent of students nationwide who dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey, 10.3 percent had been hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon on purpose by someone they were dating or going out with one or more times during the 12 months before the survey (i.e., physical dating violence). The prevalence of physical dating violence was higher among female (13.0 percent) than male (7.4 percent) students.
Among the 73.9 percent of students nationwide who dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey, 10.4 percent of students had been kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to by someone they were dating or going out with one or more times during the 12 months before the survey (i.e., sexual dating violence). The prevalence of sexual dating violence was higher among female (14.4 percent) than male (6.2 percent) students.
5. Felt sad or hopeless
During the 12 months before the survey, 29.9 percent of students had felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities. The prevalence of having felt sad or hopeless was higher among female (39.1 percent) than male (20.8 percent) students.
6. Seriously considered attempting suicide
Of those surveyed, 17.0 percent of students had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey. The prevalence of having seriously considered attempting suicide was higher among female (22.4 percent) than male (11.6 percent) students.
Taking the thoughts one step further, 13.6 percent of students made a plan about how they’d attempt suicide.
Finally, 8.0 percent of students had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months before the survey.
Ever Smoked Cigarettes
In the survey, 41.1 percent of students had ever tried cigarette smoking (even one or two puffs). The prevalence of having ever smoked cigarettes was higher among male (42.5 percent) than females (39.6 percent).
In the tobacco group, 9.3 percent of students had smoked a whole cigarette for the first time before age 13 and 5.6 percent of student smokers had admitted to smoking at least 20 or more days during the 30 days before the survey.
Among the smokers, 48.0 percent had tried to quit.
Of the underage students (under age 18) who currently smoked, 18.1 percent obtained them on their own by buying them in a store or gas station.
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG USE
1. Ever drank alcohol
Of those surveyed, 66.2 percent of students had had at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during their life, with females leading this group at (67.9 percent) and males at (64.4 percent).
Nearly 19 percent of students surveyed had drunk alcohol (other than a few sips) for the first time before age 13, and 34.9 percent of students had had at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
Approximately 6.1 percent of students admitted that the largest number of drinks they consumed in a row (within a couple of hours) was 10 or more.
2. Tried marijuana
For the question of marijuana use, 40.7 percent of students had used it one or more times during their life.
Approximately 8.6 percent of students had tried marijuana for the first time before age 13. The prevalence of having tried marijuana before age 13 was higher among male (11.1 percent) than female (6.2 percent) students.
Addressing current use, 23.4 percent of students had used marijuana one or more times during the 30 days before the survey with the prevalence of current marijuana use higher among males (25.0 percent) than females (21.9 percent).
3. Cocaine and hallucinogenic drug use
Of those students surveyed, 5.5 percent of students said they’d used some form of cocaine (powder, crack or freebase) one or more times during their life.
A reported 7.1 percent of students had used hallucinogenic drugs (e.g., LSD, acid, PCP, angel dust, mescaline, or mushrooms) one or more times during their life while 8.9 percent of students had sniffed glue, breathed the contents of aerosol spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high.
Another, 6.6 percent of students had used ecstasy and 2.2 percent of students had used heroin, 3.2 percent of the students had used methamphetamines.
4. Prescription and illegal drug abuse
Of those surveyed, 3.2 percent had taken steroid pills or shots without a doctor’s prescription and 17.8 percent of students had taken prescription drugs (e.g., Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax) without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their life.
Another 1.7 percent of students had used a needle to inject an illegal drug into their body, and 22.1 percent of students had been offered, sold, or given an illegal drug by someone on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
1. Sexual activity
Many of those surveyed engaged in sexual risk behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancies and STIs, including HIV infection. Nearly half (46.8 percent) of students surveyed had had sexual intercourse and, 15.0 percent had sexual intercourse with four or more persons during their life.
Another 5.6 percent of students said they had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13, and 34.0 percent of those surveyed say they are currently sexually active.
2. Birth control use
Among the 34.0 percent of currently sexually active students, 59.1 percent had used a condom during their last sexual intercourse.
Of the sexually active students, 19.0 percent reported that either they or their partner had used birth control pills to prevent pregnancy before last sexual intercourse. In the sexually active group, 13.7 percent reported that neither they nor their partner had used any method to prevent pregnancy during sex.
1. Fruits and veggies
During the 7 days before the survey, only 5.0 percent of high school students had not eaten fruit or drank 100 percent fruit juices and 6.6 percent had not eaten vegetables. In contrast, 21.9 percent had eaten fruit or drank 100 percent fruit juice and 15.7 percent had eaten vegetables three or more times a day during the seven days prior to the survey.
2. Milk vs. soda
Of the surveyed students, 12.5 percent said they’d consumed three or more glasses of milk per day of milk during the 7 days before they participated in the survey and 22.3 percent of students had not consumed soda or pop during the 7 days before the survey.
However, 27.0 percent of the students had consumed a can, bottle, or glass of soda or pop one or more times per day during the 7 days before the survey.
A total of 13.7 percent of the students had not eaten breakfast during the 7 days before the survey. 9th-grade girls (16.9 percent) seemed to skip breakfast more than 9th-grade boys (12.3 percent). While 12th-grade boys (14.8 percent) skipped the meal more than the 12th-grade girls (11.4 percent)
Overall, 38.1 percent of students had eaten breakfast on all 7 days before the survey. More males were eating breakfast (42.4 percent) than females (33.8 percent).
Active or Sedentary
Nationwide, 15.2 percent of the students surveyed had not participated in at least 60 minutes of any kind of physical activity that increased their heart rate and made them breathe hard at least one day in the week before the survey. In contrast, 47.3 percent of the students had been physically active doing some kind of physical activity.
A reported 48.0 percent went to physical education (PE) classes on one or more days in an average week when they were in school. The prevalence of having attended PE classes was higher in males (53.3 percent) than females (42.8 percent).
Sports played a big roll in 54.0 percent of surveyed students who played on at least one sports team in the 12 months prior to taking the survey.
In the survey, 41.3 percent of students said they played video or computer games or used a computer for something that was not school work for 3 or more hours per day on an average school day (i.e., used computers 3 or more hours per day).
1. Obese and overweight
In the survey group, 13.7 percent of students were obese, 16.6 percent of students were overweight, and 31.1 percent described themselves as slightly or very overweight.
2. Weight Control
A reported 47.7 percent of students were trying to lose weight. Not surprisingly 62.6 percent of those students were female, compared to 33.0 percent males.
Not eating for 24 hours or more was one way 13.0 percent tried to lose weight. 5.0 percent took diet pills, powders or liquids and 4.4 percent had vomited or taken laxatives as a way to lose weight or avoid gaining weight.
OTHER HEALTH-RELATED TOPICS
While the survey mostly focused on what could be termed “risky behaviors,” it also found out that 21.0 percent of students had been told by a doctor or nurse that they had asthma.
Nationwide, 31.7 percent of students got 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night.
What conclusions can we draw from all this information? While things may be considerably different today than they were “back in the day,” having access to resources such as YRBSS is a step in the right direction to understanding the needs of our youth so we can focus our efforts on protecting and promoting the health of future generations.
To see the full report, along with methodologies, charts, etc., visit: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6304.pdf
(WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at www.whatdoctorsknow.com.)
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