While many high school students engage in behaviors that place their health at risk, the percentage of those students is lower today than it was in the early 1990s. The finding is the result of a recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unfortunately, many of those substantial improvements were not noted among Hispanic high school students — a group which is still more likely, overall, to use drugs, attempt suicide, and engage in risky sexual behaviors than either black or white teens. That trend is particularly troubling, according to researchers, as Hispanic people comprise the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S.
The CDC survey is conducted every two years. In 2007, more than 14,000 students participated. Those students were drawn from 39 states and 22 urban school districts.
According to authors of the study, the percentage of black students who engaged in sexual intercourse dropped from 82% in 1991 to only 66% in 2007. The number of black students who reported having four or more sexual partners also declined, from 43% in 1991 to 28% in 2007.
Among white students, those having sexual intercourse dropped from 50% in 1991 to 44% in 2007. The number of white teenagers having four or more partners also dropped, from 15% in 1991 to 12% in 2007.
Among Hispanic high school students, however, there has been no significant change in sexual behaviors. In 1991, 53% of Hispanic teens reported having had intercourse, and in 2007 that number was still 52%. Additionally, 17% of Hispanic high school students reported having sex with four or more partners in both 1991 and 2007. Furthermore, the numbers of high school students who had been taught about HIV had not changed significantly among Hispanics, but did increase among black and white students. Hispanic teens were also more likely to be offered or sold illegal drugs or drink at school.
Some encouraging trends stand out among Hispanic teens: Members of the group were more likely to wear seat belts and use condoms in 2007 than they were in 1991. They were also less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use drugs such as marijuana and methamphetamines, and they were less likely to ride with a driver who’d been drinking alcohol.
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