Informed Families Catalyst

Are U.S. High School Students Getting Healthier?

Posted by Sergio Perez on July 11, 2014 at 5:31 PM

The latest CDC teen behavior survey finds US high school students' cigarette smoking at lowest in 22 years. The study also finds fewer fights and too much texting and driving.

Cigarette smoking rates among high school students have dropped to the lowest levels since the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) began in 1991, according to the 2013 results released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By achieving a teen smoking rate of 15.7 percent, the United States has met its national Healthy People 2020 objective of reducing adolescent cigarette use to 16 percent or less.

Despite this progress, reducing overall tobacco use remains a significant challenge. For example, other national surveys show increases in hookah and e-cigarette use.

“It’s encouraging that high school students are making better health choices such as not fighting, not smoking, and not having sex,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Way too many young people still smoke and other areas such as texting while driving remain a challenge. Our youth are our future. We need to invest in programs that help them make healthy choices so they live long, healthy lives.”

For the first time, the surveys conducted by states and large urban school districts gathered information on texting and e-mailing by adolescents while driving. The survey’s findings indicate that the use of technology while driving continues to put youth at risk:

  • Among high school students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days, the percentage of high school students who texted or e-mailed while driving ranged from 32 percent to 61 percent across 37 states and from 19 percent to 43 percent across 15 large urban school districts.
  • Nationwide, 41 percent of students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving.

The new YRBS report shows mixed results regarding youth sexual risk behaviors.

  • The percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active (had sexual intercourse during the past three months) has declined from 38 percent in 1991 to 34 percent in 2013.
  • Among the high school students who are currently sexually active, condom use also has declined from 63 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2013. This decline follows a period of increased condom use throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

The report also indicates varied trends in obesity-related behaviors in recent years, such as excessive screen time and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like soda.

From 2003−2013, the percent of high school students using a computer three or more hours per day (for non-school related work) nearly doubled from 22 percent to 41 percent.

The percentage of high school students who watch three or more hours of TV on an average school day decreased since 1999 (from 43 percent to 32 percent).

There was a significant decrease in drinking soda (or pop) one or more times per day from 34 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2013.

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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