Survey Finds Too Many Youths Are Making Unsafe Choices - Southern Maryland Headline News

Survey Finds Too Many Youths Are Making Unsafe Choices

BALTIMORE (January 12, 2007) - Maryland young people, much like their counterparts from across the nation, are involved in a significant amount of risky behavior.

The new student activity data is included in the 2005 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey, part of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), published biannually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Maryland data, released by MSDE today, finds that for the most part, the choices made by Maryland students do not differ significantly for high school students in the rest of the nation.

For example, 73 percent of Maryland students in grades 9-12 have tried alcohol at least once, compared to 74.3 percent nationally. In some cases, Maryland data is somewhat better than the rest of the nation. More than 16 percent of Maryland students said that had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, a rate below the 23 percent national figure.

"Maryland has been documenting youth behavior for several years, through our own Maryland Adolescent Survey, and our data shows that we are making progress in steering students toward good decision making," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "This report confirms our belief that we still have a long way to go."

The Maryland General Assembly in 2004 required that MSDE conduct the YRBS for the first time. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2005 and covered traffic safety; personal safety; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; suicide; diet, nutrition, and physical activity; and protective factors.

Thirty schools were randomly selected to take part in the survey, drawn from the state's 24 systems. The General Assembly required the signature of a parent or guardian specifically authorizing the student's participation before a he or she could be given a survey to complete, a process known as "active consent."

A total of 1,414 usable surveys were obtained for the sample size, about 65 percent of the enrollment in the sampled classes.

Among the results of the survey:

* Nearly three in 10 Maryland students report feeling sad or hopeless for two weeks in a row or more (29.7 percent), a figure on par with the national statistic (28.5 percent).

* Nineteen percent of high school students in Maryland report carrying a weapon in the past 30 days, a figure close to the national average (18.5 percent).

* More than one-quarter of Maryland students (27.4 percent) consider themselves slightly or over overweight, slightly better than the national average (31.5 percent).

* Nearly 9 out of 10 Maryland high school students (89.5 percent) report they have been taught about HIV infection in school, compared to 87.9 percent nationally.

Source: Md. State Dept. of Education

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