The 1999 Youth Risk Behavior Survey released by Mayor Don Wesely today indicates a decline in tobacco use, sexual activity and violence by teens since 1991. The survey also showed a decline in the percentage of teens who had considered suicide and mixed results in alcohol use, illegal drug use and seatbelt use. The survey, conducted every other year, is a comprehensive analysis of trends in youth risk behaviors. It is a joint project of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and the Lincoln Public Schools.
"This survey provides important insight into the lives of our young people, our most precious resource," said Mayor Wesely. "Few counties in the nation provide this kind of local perspective. It will help us determine the health areas in which we as a community need to focus our attention."
The survey, first conducted in 1991, grew out of an initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve local and state public health assessments. The 1999 data was gathered from 1,145 students in six middle schools, all four Lincoln high schools and the four rural Lancaster County schools.
Complete copies of the survey are available on the city web site or from the Health Department. Highlights of the survey are:
In 1999, 61.9 percent of teens reported that they had tried cigarettes during their lifetimes, compared to 72.8 percent in 1991. Teens were also less likely than in previous years to report smoking daily or using smokeless tobacco.
In 1999, 79.8 percent of teens reported that they had drunk more than a few sips of alcohol in their lifetimes. This was not significantly higher than the 77.9 percent reported in 1991. The percentage of teens reporting that they first drank alcohol at 12 years of age or younger declined from 1991 to 1998. Overall trends in reported alcohol use by area teens were mixed during the 1990s. General indicators for drinking history, episodic heavy drinking, drunk driving and alcohol or drug use prior to sex did not change substantially.
The most common illegal drugs ever used by teens are marijuana (36.3 percent), inhalants (10.9 percent) and methamphetamine (7.4 percent). Overall, reported experience with marijuana among area teens increased then declined during the 1990s. Reported experience with inhalants and injected drugs declined, and experience with other illegal drugs changed little. New questions on the 1999 survey will provide baseline data on methamphetamine and heroin use.
The percentage of teens who reported that they had sexual intercourse declined substantially from 51.6 percent in 1991 to 36.2 percent in 1999.
The percentage of teens who reported that they had been involved in a physical fight in the past 12 months declined from 39.9 percent in 1991 to 29.7 percent in 1999.
The percentage of teens who reported that they had seriously considered suicide during the past 12 months declined from 29.3 percent in 1991 to 18.3 percent in 1999.
Helmet and seatbelt use:
In 1997, 39 percent of youth reported always wearing seatbelts compared to 36 percent in 1999. The percentage of teens who reported riding a motorcycle in the past 12 months was 33 percent in 1991, 26.3 percent in 1993, 23.9 percent in 1995, 20.2 percent in 1997 and 22.2 percent in 1999. Among riders, the percentage reporting that they never or rarely wear a helmet changed little during the 1990s, remaining at about one in three riders in 1999.
In 1999, 67.6 percent of teens reported that they engaged in vigorous physical exercise (at least 20 minutes) on three or more of the previous seven days. The percentage in 1991 was 67.9 percent.
Body weight and weight loss:
The percentage of teens reporting that they were overweight changed little from 1991 to 1999, remaining at about one-third. The percentage of teens reporting that they are currently trying to lose weight also changed little, averaging 41 percent from 1991 through 1997 before rising to 45.6 percent in 1999.