Today’s teens are very much different than the ones 10 years ago, who are very much different than the ones 10 years before that. To people older than 30, you probably don’t have to make much of an argument to get them to agree with that assessment.
But if you do need to, you can point to a few statistics to prove that the behaviors among America’s current high schoolers differ than those in generations before.
With all of the talk about opioids, “Molly” and head-scratching viral movements like the Tide pod challenge, you might be inclined to think today’s teens are experimenting more and using more drugs than ever before. Recent statistics, however, don’t support this theory. But, teens are increasingly facing other kinds of challenges, which we will explain in this article.
Teen Illegal Drug Use on the Decline
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) paints a pretty extensive picture of where teens stand with drug use, mental health issues and other lifestyle factors. The survey is conducted every two years, and the 2017 results were just released this summer. The latest survey drew from nearly 150,000 students all over the country who were in grades 9 through 12.
Here are some of the findings regarding illegal drug use among high school students:
- 14 percent of students had ever used an illegal drug such as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, meth, hallucinogens or ecstasy.
- This is down significantly from the 22.6 percent of high school students who responded the same way in 2007.
- Only 1.5 percent of high school students said they had ever injected a legal drug.
- This is down from 2.0 percent in 2007 and the recent high of 2.3 percent in 2011.
Prescription Opioid Use Among Teens Is Concerning
Despite illegal drug use being down across the board, the misuse of prescription opioids such as codeine, OxyContin and Vicodin was fairly high. The survey found 14 percent of high school students had misused prescription opioids, with more females responding positively than males.
This question hadn’t been asked in the survey before, so there’s no historical data to compare it to. The question was added to the most recent survey due to the country’s problems of late with opioids and heroin.
Adolescent and Teen Mental Health Issues Still Prominent
The most recent YRBS also had some revealing findings regarding teens’ mental health:
- 31.5 percent of high school students reported persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness within the past year, the highest mark in the last 10 years.
- This number has been steadily on the rise since the 26.1 percent mark in 2009.
- There was a big disparity among the two sexes in 2017: 41.1 percent of female students reported sadness/hopelessness feelings, compared to “just” 21.4 of male students.
- 17.2 percent of students said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
- This number was higher than the 14.5 percent who said the same in 2007, but is similar to the results from the 2013 and 2015 surveys.
- Significantly more female students reported considering suicide than male students – 22.1 percent to 11.9 percent.
- And how many actually attempted suicide? 7.4 percent of students said they had tried within the last year – 9.3 percent of female students, and 5.1 percent of male students.
- This number was higher than the 2007 mark of 6.9 percent, but lower than the 2015 mark of 8.6 percent.
Teen Bullying Statistics
Nineteen percent of high school students said they had been bullied at school within the year prior to the 2017 survey; more than 22 percent of female students responded this way, compared to 15.6 percent of male students. The overall number was actually down slightly from the 19.9 percent mark in 2009. The number has stayed relatively the same over the last eight years.
Just under 15 percent of high school students said they had been the victim of electronic bullying within the last year; more than twice as many females said so than males did. The 2017 mark was down from 16.2 percent who responded the same way in 2011, the first year the survey asked this question.
Other Interesting Findings
The CDC survey also had some interesting findings about lifestyle factors among high school students:
- Just under 40 percent said they had ever had sex, down from 54 percent in 1991 and 48 percent in 2007.
- In fact, the number has been steadily declining since 47.4 percent of high school students responded positively to this question in 2011.
- Just under 10 percent in 2017 reported having four or more lifetime sexual partners, a number which has also been steadily decreasing since 2011.
- Only 53.8 percent of students reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse, a number which has been steadily declining since the 61.5 percent mark in 2007.
To boil all of these numbers down to a few memorable takeaways, here’s what we can conclude about today’s high schoolers:
- They are using illegal drugs less and injecting less.
- Prescription opioid misuse is a concern.
- More students are experiencing depression-like thoughts and symptoms.
- More students are considering suicide or have attempted suicide than the high schoolers from 10 years ago.
- Bullying, whether online or at school, is still a concern, although not on the rise.
- Hopelessness/sadness, suicidal thoughts and bullying are affecting female students much more than male students.
- Teens are having less sex, but using condoms at a lower rate when doing so.
Getting a Teen Help for Drug Abuse and Mental Illness
Dual diagnosis treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and an accompanying mental health disorder is becoming increasingly important in our country. If you have a son who is at least 18 years old, Reflections Recovery Center can help if he’s struggling with drug abuse and a potential mental disorder – such as depression or anxiety.
There’s no shame in surrendering to the care of professionals for help in turning your loved one’s life around. Contact us today to learn more about our renowned Prescott, AZ inpatient treatment program.