From guest blogger Nirvi Shah:
Results from the 2011 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that many high school students are involved in the kind of behaviors associated with the leading causes of death for people ages 10 to 24.
For example, during the 30 days before the survey, about 33 percent of high school students nationwide had texted or emailed while driving, almost 39 percent had consumed alcohol, and 23 percent had used marijuana.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that young people do appear to have made improvements to their behavior in some ways, however, despite the frequency of texting while driving. The 2011 survey was the first time students were asked about texting while driving. Car accidents are the cause of more than 1 in 3 teen deaths in the United States each year.
•From 1991 to 2011, the proportion of high school students who never or rarely wore a seat belt declined from 26 percent to 8 percent.
•From 1991 to 2011, students who rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days declined from 40 percent to 24 percent.
•The percentage of high school students who drove a car in the previous 30 days after they had been drinking dropped from 17 percent in 1997 to 8 percent in 2011.
Also for the first time, the survey asked students about bullying through electronic media. One in 6 youths surveyed had been bullied through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites, or texting during the past 12 months.
The survey involved more than 15,000 teenagers in 43 states and 21 large urban school districts. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors six categories: behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity.
The CDC said that overall since 1991, while the prevalence of many priority health-risk behaviors among high school students nationwide has decreased, many students still engage in behaviors that place them at risk for the leading causes of death. The prevalence of some health-risk behaviors varied substantially among states and large urban school districts and students of different genders and races.
Researchers also found that in the 12 months before the survey, about 33 percent of students had been in a physical fight. About 20 percent had been bullied on school property at some point in their lives, and about 8 percent had attempted suicide. Almost half of all students had been sexually active during their lifetimes, 34 percent had had sexual intercourse during the 3 months before the survey, and 15 percent had had sexual intercourse with four or more people during their life. Of those students who said they were sexually active, 60 percent had used a condom the last time they had sex.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.