I ran across some interesting statistics on the Centers for Disease Control website about teens and it seemed like important information to share. These statistics come from studies done from 1991-2013 as part of a Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance and cover both high school (9th-12th grade) and middles school age kids. The results I’m addressing here are for high school age kids. High school is generally a time of great peer pressure for kids to fit in, to find a niche or somewhere to belong, often resulting in poor behavioral choices– either from poor group decisions or from perceived lifestyle choices of others. I would propose that our unhealthy media culture in America has inflated that perception beyond reality and the statistics seem to show our youth making better choices overall than is commonly believed.
Almost without fail the results showed over & over again that kids are doing better than they were 20 years ago. In alcohol use the number of high schoolers who had ever taken a drink dropped by 20%. That means, if you’re a teen and think ALL the other kids are partying and drinking, you’re wrong. If you are in a group of 10 kids there are 4 who have never had a single drink, but that stat used to be eight. Teen drinking has been linked to nerve tissue damage in the brains of teenagers so let’s keep that trend dropping.
Illegal drugs have likewise seen dropping trends. The rates are actually higher than they were in 1991 but there was a drastic spike in the late-90s and the percentage of drug use has been steadily dropping since then. The science behind dangers of narcotics has been repeated for decades and hopefully our kids are taking note. In the 90s there were a reported ⅕ of high school kids sniffing inhalants (and dying from it as well) but that rate dropped below 10% in 2013. In a room of 10 kids only 1 kid will be using inhalants. You teen are not alone in your good choices– in fact you may be in place to help those few who are making dangerously destructive choices.
This one interested me the most since our sexual behaviors seem so greatly highlighted, in magazines, television and the big screen. Ready forthis? In a group of random kids, less than half of those kids will have had sex. Ever. That means OVER HALF of our high school kids are virgins. I’m hoping most of that half are the younger kids but still that is a hopeful statistic. The means of creating human life is a beautiful gift but also a grave responsibility, even for those prepared for parenthood. If more people are waiting to have sex with a devoted partner with the intent to raise kids in a family then all nations will be stronger.
And a quick shout-out to our smart kids, whose tobacco use has plummeted, dropping in most cases by at least half. If we could get as much good PR against these other dangerous habits as we’ve had against the tobacco industry we’d be sitting pretty. I am hopeful and proud of our kids, who are looking to the future and making better choices. If you keep this up the world will be in good hands. Don’t let anybody tell you any differently.