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Sex And Drug Use Among Teens At All-Time Low, But They Face New Risks: CDC

Jun 15, 2018 07:07 AM EDT
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Teenage sex and drugs are at an all-time low, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say teens are sadder than they've ever been.

CDC released the latest National Youth Risk Behavior Survey report, which produced surprising results on teenage behavior from data collected in 2007 to 2017.

It only includes school students without participation from those who are home-schooled.

Teenage Sex, Drugs Decrease

Kathleen Ethier, an author of the newly released report, explained that teenagers are now making smarter choices when it comes to their sexual behavior and drug use.

The percentage of high school students who have ever had sex went down within a decade from 47.8 percent in 2007 to 39.5 percent in 2017. Use of condoms among the sexually active declined in 2017, though, with only 53.8 percent compared to 61.5 percent in 2007. This is significant in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases, showing that it still needs emphasis moving forward.

In drugs, the percentage of students who have ever used illicit drugs dropped significantly from approximately 22.6 percent last 2007 to just 14 percent in 2017. Usage of illegal drugs also decreased from 2 percent to 1.5 percent.

Fourteen percent reported use of prescription pain medication without prescription or in a different way than prescribed. It's the first time the survey included this question and Ethier tells that the percentage is much higher than experts expected. With the opioid epidemic sweeping through the United States, this is also something that needs to be addressed.

Bullying

However, other factors are threatening the modern youth. Bullying remains a big threat with roughly similar percentages of students reporting bullying from 2009 to 2017. Online bullying decreased slightly from 16.2 percent in 2011 to 14.9 percent in 2017, but it remains to be a big chunk of the school population.

In terms of safety in the campus, 6.7 percent of students have skipped school due to safety concerns, an increase from 5.5 percent in 2007. The rate of sexual violence has also stayed the same with 7.4 percent reporting having been forced to have sex in 2017 compared to 7.8 percent in 2007.

Ethier, also the director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, stresses that violence and victimization haven't gone down through the years.

"Bullying hasn't decreased," she points out. "The proportion of youth who have ever been physically forced to have sex has not decreased."

Suicide

Mental struggles continue to plague teenagers. The percentage of those who have reported to experience persistent sadness or hopelessness jumped from 28.5 percent in 2007 to 31.5 percent in 2017. There was also an increase on those who seriously considered suicide at 17.2 percent in 2017 from 14.5 percent in 2007.

"We're seeing increases in experiences of persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and suicide ideation and behaviors, and so that remains a great concern," Ethier adds.

A report by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in May 2018 also highlighted this problem, revealing that the diagnosis for major depression is rising among adolescents and millennials.

Dial 1-800-273-TALK for the national suicide hotline. Studies have shown that suicide risk declines upon calling.

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