Drug Use, Suicide Attempts Decreased In New Mexico High School

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The New Mexico Department of Health and the Public Education Department released results today from the 2007 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey that surveyed about 11,300 high school students across the state about healthy and risky behaviors. The survey found several positive trends in risk behaviors, including decreases in drinking and driving, suicide attempts, alcohol and drug use and television viewing from 2003 to 2007.

“We are pleased to report that fewer teenagers in New Mexico are participating in behaviors that put their health at risk,” said Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil. “This survey helps us measure important factors so we can work with community partners to build on students’ strengths and reduce their risky behaviors.”

Every other year, the Department of Health collaborates with the New Mexico Public Education Department to invite New Mexico’s 89 school districts to participate in this survey. It asks students about their risk behaviors and their protective factors, which include relationships with family, school, adults and peers, community involvement, life skills and constructive use of time.

The data clearly demonstrate an important link between risk behaviors and academic performance. Students who do not engage in risk behaviors have much better academic outcomes than other students. For instance, while 74.9% of nonsmokers report getting high grades in school, only 51.4% of smokers report getting good grades. Similar relationships exist between academic performance and drug use, alcohol use and other risk behaviors.

“Healthy students make better learners,” Education Secretary Veronica C. Garcia said. “This survey provides local school districts information that they can use to determine school health programs and policies that will contribute to students’ academic success.”

Survey results also illustrate the relationship between protective factors and risk behaviors. Students who reported high levels of protective factors were far less likely to engage in risk behaviors. For example, students who had a low level of caring and supportive relationships with parents were more likely to use marijuana compared to their peers who reported high levels of caring and supportive relationships with their parents.

Key findings:

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• Rarely or never wore a seatbelt (2003 – 11.9%; 2007 - 8.9%)
• Drinking and driving (2003 – 19.1%; 2007 – 12.5%)
• Riding with a drinking driver (2003 – 34.9%; 2007 – 31.2%)
• Suicide attempts that resulted in an injury (2003 – 7.5%; 2007 – 4.8%)
• Ever smoked cigarettes (2003 – 64.8%; 2007 – 59.9%)
• First cigarette before the age or 13 (2003 – 24.7%; 2007 – 18.0%)
• Current cigarette smoking (2003 – 30.2%; 2007 – 24.2%)
• Cigarette smoking on school property (2003 – 13.6%; 2007 – 7.5%)
• Current use of any form of tobacco (2003 – 34.0%; 2007 – 30.2%)
• Current alcohol use (2003 – 50.7%; 2007 – 43.2%)
• Binge drinking (2003 – 35.4%; 2007 – 27.4%)
• Alcohol use before the age of 13 (2003 – 35.8%; 2007 – 30.7%)
• Current cocaine use (2003 – 8.9%; 2005 – 7.9%; 2007 – 5.4%)
• Current methamphetamine use (2003 – 7.3%; 2007 – 4.4%)
• Current use of chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip (2005 – 8.5%; 2007 – 11.8%).
• Having been offered, sold or given drugs on school property (2003 – 41.2%; 2007 – 31.3%)
• Television viewing 3 or more hours daily (2003 – 34.2%; 2007 – 27.9%)

“While we are making progress in reducing risky behaviors among teenagers, we are concerned that our rates for drug and alcohol use, violent behavior and suicide attempts are among the highest rates in the nation,” Dr. Vigil said. “We must continue to focus on our prevention work so we can support our young people in leading healthy lives,” Dr. Vigil said.

In other areas, New Mexico students fare better than the national average. New Mexico students have higher rates of physical activity and lower rates of sedentary behaviors than the rest of the nation. In comparison to other students across the country, a higher percentage of New Mexico students met the recommended levels of physical activity (NM – 43.6%; U.S. – 34.7%).

A smaller percentage of New Mexico students:

• had no days of at least 60 minutes of physical activity (NM – 17.2%; US – 24.9%.

• watched television for 3 or more hours daily (NM - 27.9%; US – 35.4%)

• spent 3 or more hours daily at a computer for non-school related activities (NM – 18.7%; US – 24.9%).

Thirty-nine states collect and report this data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiles the information into national data. The University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center and the CDC provide technical assistance with New Mexico’s survey.

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