High Schoolers Report Further Decline in Risky Behaviors
> 8/11/2006 10:53:26 AM

Despite the many incessant naysayers who claim that our youth culture is plumetting into a moral wasteland, a newly published survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that adolescents are practing much safer sexual behavior and using fewer drugs now than at any point in the last fifteen years. Numerous statistics show nearly universal declines in the behaviors labeled risky for high schoolers.

The study itself, based on anonymous questionnaires distributed to schools in all fifty sates, aims to focus on HIV-risk related behaviors. It includes data recorded in the years between 1991 and 2005 and it is large and exhaustive. Several encouraging trends demand attention: the number of students who have had sex in their lifetimes dropped significantly, from 54.1% to 46.8%. The number of students who reported four or more lifetime sexual partners also went down from 18.7% to 14.1%. Perhaps most significantly, 62.8% of sexually active students reported using a condom during their last sexual experience - a sixteen point jump from 1991.

Most news reports on the study focus on the noted improvements in sexual behavior, but drug abuse statistics are also encouraging. Though intravenous drug use hovered around 2%, the number of students who tried cigarettes declined nearly twenty points from 2000 to 2005, with daily smoker numbers moving from 18% in 1991 to just over 10% in 2005. Students who currently use alcohol dropped by 6% and reports of drunk driving incidents went down by 7%. The study saw slight increases in the use of cocaine and marijuana over the last fifteen years, but both these numbers went down since 1999, and use of other drugs like hallucinogens, amphetamines and inhalants decreased significantly across the board.

Certain unfortunate statistics, such as the number of students who report using alcohol or drugs before their last sexual experience, remained steady. Also discouraging is the fact that the percentage of high school students who report depression and suicidal thoughts is approximately the same now as it was fifteen years ago. Still, most of the study leads researchers to believe that educating kids about sexual and chemical risks is paying off.Most adolescents are, in fact, responsible citizens, increasingly concerned about their own health. Further educational measures can only help to continue this downward trend in risky behavior.

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