Newton youth say they are using less tobacco, but their alcohol use is up slightly as are their worries about school, social and appearance issues.
Such are the results of the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is administered to Newton middle and high school students every two years. The survey was first given in 1998.
According to a summary of the findings, the survey was administered to Newton's sixth through twelfth graders in November 2012. The responses are anonymous and confidential and the questions deal with issues such as substance use, violence and safety, and physical and mental health.
The findings summary cautions, "that the results can present a skewed picture of Newton students because ore of the data concern risky behaviors such as substance use and violence."
It urges readers to remember that there are many positive aspects of adolescence and that risky behaviors are not limited to youth.
(In the summary findings document, only the responses of seventh and eighth graders are used to tabulate the middle school response. Ninth through 12th grader responses are used in the high school numbers).
Among the notable findings:
- Alcohol use is the most used substance among Newton students. A full third of high school students (33 percent) reported drinking alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey; 2 percent of middle school students reported the same. The high school number is up slightly from the 2010 survey (from 31 percent to 33 percent), but the long-term numbers (since the 2002 survey) have declined among both middle and high school students.
- Tobacco use continues to decline among all students. Fewer than 1 percent of middle school students and just 6 percent of high school students reported having used tobacco in the 30 days prior to the survey.
- Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug, with 17 percent of high school students and less than 1 percent of middle school students reporting have used marijuana in the 30 days prior to the survey. High school marijuana usage has been on the decline since 2008, when 23 percent percent reported using marijuana.
- Bullying is on the decline among Newton youth, with fewer students reporting having been bullied in the 30 days prior to the survey. Additionally, the numbers of students who took part in bullying or who stood by and did nothing while someone else was bullied are also on the decline.
- Stress levels have remained largely consistent, according to the survey, with school being the most likely factor to cause stress. Three-quarters of high school students (74 percent) characterized their lives as "somewhat" or "very" stressful, while 47 percent of middle school students reported the same.
- Sexual behavior has also remained fairly consistent, with 19 percent of high school students reporting having had sexual intercourse. The numbers increase dramatically with age, with 38 percent of 12th graders having had intercourse to only 7 percent of ninth graders. Of the sexually active Newton youth, 76 percent reported having used a condom during their most recent sexual experience.
Additional questions addressed body image and health, other mental health issues and other illegal drug use.
See the PDF of summary findings from the 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for more details on the trends. For more on the results of this survey, see the PDF of summary results from the 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Both PDFs are included with this article.