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For Immediate Release
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Survey Shows Increase in Condom Usage, Decline in Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs

MALDEN - Fewer teens are drinking and smoking, more are taking active steps to protect themselves from HIV and pregnancy, and more are overweight than in previous years, according to findings in the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The MYRBS is conducted every two years by the Massachusetts Department of Education to monitor potentially dangerous and life threatening youth behaviors. In all, 3,522 students in grades 9-12 from 51 randomly selected public high schools participated in the voluntary and anonymous survey last spring. The Massachusetts results were released Thursday as part of the Center for Disease Control’s report on national and state YRBS results.

“This is some of the most important data we gather, because it gives us a very clear look at the choices our young people are making,” said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. “Over time we have seen a steady decline in many of these risky behaviors, but they are still prevalent in society. Until parents, educators and the young people themselves can work together to stop these risky behaviors from occurring, our job is not done.”

According to the report, 51 percent of students said they had ever smoked a cigarette, down from 62 percent in 2001 and 72 percent in 1995. Just 6 percent said they smoked daily over the past month, down from 10 percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1995.

Recent alcohol use also declined in the past decade: 48 percent of students reported drinking alcohol in the past month, a decrease from 53 percent in 2001. During this four-year period, binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks in a row in a couple of hours) during the past month also dropped from 33 percent to 27 percent.

Condom use among sexually active teens rose dramatically to 65 percent in 2005, up from 57 percent in 2003. Currently, 45% of Massachusetts high school students report ever having had sexual intercourse, up from 41 percent in 2003.

Suicidal thinking among adolescents has also been cut in half; a decade ago 26 percent of students reported having seriously considered suicide, this dropped to 13 percent in 2005.

Other findings include:

Tobacco Use

  • Current cigarette smoking decreased from 36 percent in 1995 to 21 percent in 2005.
  • Smoking on school property has decreased from a high of 19 percent in 1995 to a low of 9 percent in 2005.

Illegal Drug Use

  • 26 percent of students said they use marijuana, down from 32 percent in 1995, but marijuana remains the illegal drug most commonly used by Massachusetts youth.
  • Significant decreases also appeared in adolescents’ use of ecstasy and methamphetamine.
  • 30 percent of students said they had been offered, sold or given a drug on school property in 2005, down significantly from 42 percent in 1997.

Violence-Related Behaviors

  • 29 percent said they had in a physical fight over the past year, down from 31 percent in 2003 and a high of 38 percent in 1995.
  • 15 percent said they had carried a weapon in the past month, slightly higher than the 14 percent reported in 2003, but down from a high of 20 percent in 1995.

Dietary and Weight Control Behaviors

  • Body image is an issue among youths: while just 11 percent are actually overweight, 31 percent of students said they think they weigh too much, and 47 percent said they are actively trying to lose weight. Some youth use unhealthy weight control methods such as fasting or using diet pills or laxatives.
  • In 2005, 27 percent of all students were either at risk for overweight or definitely overweight, significantly more than the 23 percent found in 1999, the first year height and weight questions were included on the survey.
  • Just 10 percent said they eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, down from 14 percent in 1999.
  • 33 percent said they watch, on average, three or more hours of TV on a school day, a percent that has not substantially changed in the past few years.



Last Updated: June 8, 2006
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