U.S Releases Major Youth Health Survey

Texting while driving and use of psychoactive substances are a source of concern

(RxWiki News) Behaviors and habits established early can persist throughout the lifespan, for good and ill.  Thus the US Government has sent thousands of health questionnaires to high schoolers.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been collecting these data on the lifestyles of young people to learn about threats to their well-being and healthy development.

Every year that persons in high school delay drinking alcohol or having risky sex predicts healthier behavior in the future, relative to peers.

"Talk to a adolescent health psychologist if your teen's behavior is worrisome"

It is in the public interest to survey the healthy or risky behavior of young persons. The CDC is at the forefront of these efforts, and released the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report.

Some of the data from the 15,425 questionnaires analyzed include the following:

  • 1 of every 3 (33%) students had texted or e-mailed while driving a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days.
  • More than 1 in 3 high school students reported current alcohol use in 2011, and 1 in 5 high school students reported binge drinking.
  • Compared to 1997, the percentage of high school students who had driven a car when they had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days decreased from 17% to 8%. 
  • 15.3% of the respondents had had sexual intercourse with four or more people during their life.
  • Marijuana use was now more prevalent than cigarette use during the past 30 days (23% vs. 18%).

These data and more will be analyzed and discussed widely in the public health community. Some cautious optimism is appropriate with certain findings showing positive trends, such as with the decline of driving while using alcohol. However, there are many real sources of concern, such as that so many are texting or emailing while driving. New threats to the health of the young are clearly emerging.

Getting teens to drive responsibly, postpone any alcohol use until adulthood and to avoid risky sexual behaviors presents major challenges to public health workers, families and society more broadly. Whether we are parents, teens or neither we all have a stake in these outcomes.

The public that is paying for all of this should stay informed and take advantage of the information being made available. The increased ability to collect data on health-affecting behaviors is grounds for anticipating the best possible tools are being developed and deployed to keep our nation's youth on a path to leading productive and fulfilling lives.

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Review Date: 
June 20, 2012