High School Students Engaging in Fewer Risky Behaviors, but Findings Vary by Race, CDC Survey Finds
While rates of sexual activity and alcohol and drug use have dropped overall among U.S. high school students, rates of such activities and other risky behaviors did not improve in some racial groups, particularly among Hispanics, according to a new CDC survey, Reuters reports.
The survey, conducted in spring 2007, includes responses from 14,041 students in grades nine through 12 in 39 states. Students were asked questions about a variety of behaviors. The survey is conducted every two years.
According to the survey, 48% of students in 2007 had had sex, compared with 54% of students in 1991. In addition, 15% of students in 2007 had had four or more sexual partners, compared with 19% in 1991.
However, the survey found "major racial and ethnic disparities," Reuters reports (Dunham, Reuters, 6/4). While there were improvements in the number of black and white students having sex and their number of sexual partners since 1991, there was no similar decline for Hispanic students (Stobbe, AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/4). The survey did not have enough data to include separate comparisons for American Indian or Asian-American groups (Narancio, McClatchy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/5).
According to the survey, 66% of black students and 44% of white students in 2007 had had sex, compared with 82% of blacks and 50% of whites in 1991. Among Hispanics, 52% reported having had sex in the 2007 survey, compared with 53% in 1991.
In addition, 28% of blacks and 12% of whites in 2007 had had four or more sexual partners, down from 43% of blacks and 15% of whites reporting the same in 1991. The rate of Hispanics reporting four or more sexual partners in the 2007 survey did not change from the 1991 survey -- 17% (Reuters, 6/4).
The survey indicates a gap in HIV/AIDS education by race, MedPage Today reports. According to the survey, 82% to 84% of white, black and Hispanic students in 1991 received HIV/AIDS education, compared with 91% of whites, 90% of blacks and 85% of Hispanics in 2007 (Gever, MedPage Today, 6/4).
Other Risky Behaviors
The 2007 survey also found that Hispanic students had higher rates of drug use than other students. In addition, 10% to 11% of Hispanic students said they attempted suicide, compared with about 7% of whites and 8% of blacks, the survey said (AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/4).
Hispanic students did show improvements in rates of alcohol use and condom use, Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, said (McClatchy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/5). In addition, the survey shows that current cigarette smoking by Hispanic students dropped from 22% in 2005 to 16.7% in 2007 (MedPage Today, 6/4).
Black children were the most likely to watch more than two hours of television a day, an amount considered too high because it can prevent children from engaging in physical activities that stave off obesity. Sixty-three percent of black children watched three or more hours of TV daily, compared with 43% of Hispanics and 27% of whites, according to the 2007 survey (AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/4).
Wechsler said, "It's extremely important that our schools and community programs understand and address the health-related needs of our Hispanic students" (Reuters, 6/4).
Sonia Perez, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza, said, "When Latino teenagers live in poor households, have less-educated parents and go to overcrowded schools that offer less-quality education, it is more likely that they will engage in these kinds of behaviors" (McClatchy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 6/5).
Glenn Flores of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center called for better data collection on minority students, saying that care providers should determine patients' race and ethnicity, primary language spoken at home and parental English proficiency. He also said that "healthy lifestyles interventions and education are needed in all U.S. schools, including regular physical education, elimination of soda vending machines, healthier school lunches and mandatory health education classes" (MedPage Today, 6/4).
The survey is available online.