Fewer High School Students Engage in Health Risk Behaviors; Racial and Ethnic Differences Persist

    Fewer U.S. high school students are engaging in health risk behaviors
    compared to their counterparts from 15 years ago, according to the 2005 National
    Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), released today by the Centers for Disease
    Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite an overall decrease in health risk
    behaviors among high school students since 1991, racial and ethnic differences
    continue to be evident.

    Two highlights of the survey involved seat belt use and alcohol use. High
    school students appear to be getting the message to buckle up. The 2005 National
    YRBS found only 10 percent of high school students said they rarely or never
    wore a seat belt when riding in a car, a dramatic decline from the 18 percent in
    2003 and 26 percent in 1991. The percentage of students who report current
    alcohol use has also declined dramatically (43 percent in 2005 vs. 51 percent in
    1991) since the first YRBS survey.

    Other improvements seen during the past 15 years include a decline in the
    percentage of high school students reporting ever having sexual intercourse. In
    2005, 47 percent of students said they had ever had sexual intercourse, roughly
    the same as in the 2003 National YRBS, but down from 54 percent reporting ever
    having sexual intercourse in the National YRBS survey in 1991. In addition, 63
    percent of sexually active students reported that they or their partner had used
    a condom during last sexual intercourse (same as the 2003 National YRBS),
    compared to 46 percent in 1991.

    “The overall survey results are encouraging because they show us that
    persistent efforts to get young people to adopt healthier behaviors can achieve
    positive results,” said Howell Wechsler, Ed.D, MPH, director of CDC’s division
    of adolescent and school health. “However, the results also illustrate some of
    the challenges. One, it does take persistence to achieve results. And two,
    despite the overall improvements in health behaviors of teens, racial and ethnic
    differences continue to exist.”

    Compared with white and Hispanic high school students, black high school
    students are least likely to use tobacco, alcohol, cocaine and other drugs, but
    most likely to report sexual risk behaviors and sedentary behaviors such as
    watching television three or more hours per day. White students are less likely
    than black or Hispanic high school students to report physical fighting, sexual
    risk behaviors and being overweight, but more likely to engage in frequent
    cigarette smoking and episodic heavy drinking. Hispanic students are more likely
    than black or white students to report attempted suicide and the use of drugs
    like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

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