Teen Risk Taking

Topics: Adolescence, Risk, Health care Pages: 6 (1927 words) Published: September 18, 2013
Teen Risk-Taking: A Statistical Portrait

Contents
Portrait Highlights
Measuring Health Risk Behaviors
Changes in Overall Risk-Taking, 1991-1997
Multiple Risks and Positive Behaviors
Reaching Multiple-Risk Teens
A Time for Cautious Optimism
Endnotes

Portrait Highlights
The most serious threats to the health and safety of adolescents and young adults are preventable. They result from such risk-taking behaviors as fighting, substance abuse, suicide, and sexual activity rather than from illnesses. These behaviors have harmful, even deadly, consequences. Changes in teen participation in specific risk behaviors have been well documented. What is less well known, and of growing concern, is how overall teen risk-taking has changed. In addition, information is lacking about the nuances in the behavior of adolescents who engage in more than one of these risks at a time.2 Teens who participate in multiple risks increase the chance of damaging their health. This booklet provides a statistical portrait of teen participation in 10 of the most prevalent risk behaviors. It focuses on the overall participation in each behavior and in multiple risk-taking. The booklet presents the overall incidence and patterns of teen involvement in the following risk behaviors: Regular alcohol use * Regular binge drinking

* Regular tobacco use
* Marijuana use
* Other illegal drug use
* Fighting
* Weapon carrying
* Suicidal thoughts
* Suicide attempts
* Risky sexual activity
The complex picture that emerges alleviates some traditional concerns, while raising new ones. Teens' overall involvement in risk-taking has declined during the past decade (except among Hispanics), with fewer teens engaging in multiple risk behaviors. But multiple-risk teens remain an important group, responsible for most adolescent risk-taking. However, almost all risk-takers also engage in positive behaviors; they participate in desirable family, school, and community activities. These positive connections offer untapped opportunities to help teens lead healthier lives. The booklet covers three aspects of risk behaviors among teens: (1) changes in risk-taking among high school students over the past decade; (2) incidence and patterns of multiple risk-taking among teens; and (3) extent and pattern of involvement of multiple risk-takers in school clubs, teen sports, religious services or youth groups, the workplace, and the health care system. The data and discussions are based on analyses of three recent national surveys: the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS), the National Survey of Adolescent Males (NSAM), and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The research was conducted for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Focusing on trends and patterns in overall risk-taking and multiple risk-taking, the booklet reports that: Overall risk-taking among high school students declined during the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1997, there was a sizable increase in the share of students who did not participate in any of the 10 risk behaviors and a sizable decrease in the proportion of students who engaged in multiple risk behaviors. Despite this, the share of highest-risk students—those participating in five or more risk behaviors-remained stable. Of note, Hispanic students did not report the same shift toward less risk-taking. Most risks are taken by multiple-risk students. The overall prevalence of a specific risk behavior among teenagers is due primarily to the behavior of multiple-risk students, since the majority of students involved in any given behavior also were engaging in other risk behaviors. For example, among the 12 percent of students reporting regular tobacco use, 85 percent were multiple risk-takers. Nearly all teens, even those engaging in multiple risk behaviors, participate in positive behaviors. Ninety-two percent of students...
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