Survey shows change in seatbelt, tobacco, alcohol use

Survey shows change in seatbelt, tobacco, alcohol use 2003 South Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey data were released jointly Feb. 10 by the South Dakota Department of Education and the Department of Human Services.

The departments collect information from high school students about risk behaviors via a confidential questionnaire that includes 98 items. It assesses six health-risk behaviors that research shows result in the greatest amount of morbidity, mortality and social problems among youth.

Developed nationally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and representatives from state departments of education and local schools, the survey quizzes youth about behaviors that result in unintentional and intentional injuries, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that result in HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies, dietary behaviors and physical activity.

A random sample of 1,829 South Dakota students in grades 9-12 completed the questionnaire in the spring of 2003.

This year's questionnaire include new questions surveying personal property damage occurring at school, gang activity, suicide attempts that required a doctor or nurse's attention, heroin and ecstasy usage and medical and dental services.

Several of South Dakota's 2003 results fall in line with statistically significant trends observed during the period 1991-2003:

* In the category of risk behaviors that result in intentional and unintentional injury, seatbelt usage by high school students appears to be increasing: 28 percent of those students surveyed in 2003 reported that they always wore a seat belt while riding in a car. This percentage increased from 20 percent reported in 2001. Forty-five percent of the 2003 respondents indicated they always wore a seatbelt when driving a car; 36 percent of the students surveyed in 2001 wore a seatbelt when driving. South Dakota law requires that all operators and passengers under age 18 must be buckled up at all times.

* Alcohol and tobacco usage continue to be areas of concern. Regarding tobacco and other drug use, the survey indicates that 60 percent of youth in grades 9-12 responded to the survey have tried cigarette smoking, compared to 67 percent of the 2001 survey respondents that indicated they had tried smoking. Twenty-five percent of the 2003 respondents reported smoking cigarettes daily in 2003 compared to 20 percent of the 2001 survey respondents.

The percentage of South Dakota students reporting that they had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days during their life was 76 percent in 2003 compared to 81 percent in 2001.

The entire 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey can be viewed online at the following location:

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