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For Immediate Release
Monday, June 24, 2002
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106 or Jonathan Palumbo 781-338-3105

Student Survey finds Most Risk Behaviors Continuing to Decline

Malden - The percentage of high school students smoking cigarettes, carrying weapons, getting into fistfights, drinking and driving or planning suicide have decreased significantly since 1995, according to the 2001 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The report, released Monday, also found that an increasing number of teens are attempting some form of weight loss - including use of diet pills or laxatives - because they think they are overweight.

"While most of the statistics relating to at-risk behaviors are heading in the right direction, it is unfortunately not true in every area," said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. "The reality is we have a long way to go, in all areas. Still, I am particularly pleased at the drop in student smoking and hope that is equal or surpassed over the next five years."

The MYRBS is conducted every two years by the Massachusetts Department of Education to monitor the leading forms of death among young adults in the United States. In all, 4,204 students in grades 9-12 from 64 randomly selected public high schools participated in the voluntary and anonymous survey.

Among the findings:

  1. Virtually every measure of tobacco use has decreased steadily since 1995.

    • 61.9 percent said they had tried cigarette smoking at least once, down from a high of 71.5 percent in 1995
    • In the 30 days prior to the survey, 26 percent smoked cigarettes at least once, down from a high of 35.7 percent in 1995.

  2. Alcohol use has remained virtually unchanged since 1995, although lifetime alcohol use has been slowly increasing since 1993. In all, 81.2 percent reported having had at least one drink of alcohol in their lives, and 28 percent had their first drink before age 13.

  3. Since 1995, at least half of all high school students have reported using an illegal drug at least once.

    • 50.4 percent reported using marijuana at least once, up from 33.6 percent in 1993; 30.9 reported using it in the last 30 days, up from 20.1 percent in 1993.

  4. Fewer than half of students surveyed (44 percent) reported having ever had sexual intercourse, down from a high of 48 percent in 1993.

    • 58.1 percent reported using a condom the last time they had sex, up from 51.8 percent in 1993
    • 23.1 percent reported using birth control pills the last time they had sex, up from 14.9 percent in 1997.

  5. The percentage of students carrying weapons has decreased significantly since 1997, as has the rate of students carrying guns and getting into fistfights.

    • 12 percent reported getting into a fistfight on school property in the past year, down from 15 percent in 1995.
    • Six percent carried a weapon on school property in the 30 days prior to the survey, down from 8 percent in 1997.

  6. Although just 10 percent of the students surveyed were actually overweight, according to their Body Mass Index, one-third thought they were overweight and were actively trying to lose weight.

  7. More students are wearing seat belts and bicycle helmets

    • Just 20.7 percent reported rarely or never wearing a seat belt in the past year, down from 41 percent in 1993.
    • 78.5 percent reported rarely or never wearing a bicycle helmet in the past year, down from 94.1 percent in 1993.

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Last Updated: June 24, 2002
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