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CDC Survey finds less sex, less fights and less smoking among nation’s youth

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Cigarette smoking among American high school students has dropped to a 22-year low; the number of students who say they are sexually active has dropped 4 percent since 1991, and 25 percent of students report they have been involved in a physical fight in the past year. This is down from the 42 percent reported in 1991. These are a few of the statistics released today by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The biennial survey is conducted at public and private high schools across the country. Students in grades 9–12 were questioned about their participation in behaviors that compromise health and are the leading causes of disability, death and social problems among the nation's youth. Topics covered in the survey include alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug use, sexual activity, violence, dietary and exercise behaviors and suicide-related behaviors.

According to the CDC, 70 percent of deaths among youth and young adults aged 10 –24 can be attributed to four causes: Motor vehicle accidents (23 percent), other unintentional injuries (18 percent), homicide (15 percent) and suicide (15 percent.) The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System helps to identify changes and trends in youth health-risk behaviors. Data used in this new report was collected in 2013.

“The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is an important tool for understanding how health risk behaviors among youth vary across the nation and over time. We can use these data to help schools, communities, families, and students reduce youth risk behaviors that are still prevalent and to monitor those that are newly emerging.” — Laura Kann, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s School-Based Surveillance Branch

The survey found that distracted driving remains a problem among young people. Of the nearly 65 percent of survey participants who drive, more than 41 percent report they had sent a text message or email while driving. While alcohol consumption rates remain unchanged from the 2010 survey, 10 percent of drivers report they had driven while drinking alcohol, and nearly 22 percent say they have ridden in a car driven by someone who was drinking.

Nearly 19 percent of students had carried a weapon – gun, knife or club, with 5.5 percent having carried a gun at least one time during the 30 days before taking the survey. Prevalence of carrying a weapon was highest among white male students. Slightly more than 5 percent of students reported having carried a weapon onto school grounds. Nationwide, 7.1 percent of students said they skipped at least one day of school during the past 30 days out of fear for their physical safety.

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