Roundup Record Tribune & Winnett Times -

2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Shows Fewer Students Engaged in Risky Behaviors Related to Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Use, Driving, and Sex; Increases in Vaping, Obesity, Depression, and Suicide


August 21, 2019

HELENA—The results of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey are now available from the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI). 95% of Montana middle schools participated and 94% of high schools participated. The biennial survey assists educators and health professionals in determining the prevalence of health-risk behaviors as self-reported by Montana middle and high school students. The areas of focus are behaviors that result in unintentional and intentional injury, tobacco use, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual behaviors that result in sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, physical inactivity, and dietary behaviors.

After reviewing the results, State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen stressed the importance of communities using their local data to positively serve their students:

“I am encouraged that in many areas of life, more Montana students are making healthy and safe decisions, however, this report confirms a strong need to promote mental health. These supports must begin early, especially in middle school,” Arntzen said Monday. “I urge schools, communities, and parents to use this information to serve the health, well-being, and success of all of our students. Under my Montana Hope initiative, the OPI will continue to partner in this important work.”

The ten-year trend shows fewer Montana students reporting risky driving behaviors (19% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, 29% in 2009), physical fighting, and being bullied on school property. Montana students increasingly report more mental health concerns and suicide ideation than ten years ago; 37% felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more in a row (27% in 2009), 20% of high school students made a plan about how they would attempt suicide (13% in 2009), and 10% actually attempted suicide in the past 12 months (7% in 2011). In comparison, 31% of middle school students reported sad or hopeless feelings, 19% planned suicide, and 16% actually attempted suicide during the past year.

On the topic of tobacco use, fewer students are smoking cigarettes and cigars. 31% of high school students had ever tried cigarette smoking (50% in 2009), 8% of students currently smoke cigarettes (19% in 2009), and 8% of students currently smoke cigars (18% in 2009). Increasing rates of use are seen for all behaviors regarding electronic vapor products; 58% of students reported ever using an electronic vapor product (47% in 2017) and 30% currently use electronic vapor products (23% in 2017). Middle school students report that 20% had ever tried cigarette smoking, 5% currently smoke cigarettes, 28% had ever used an electronic vapor product, and 16% currently use electronic vapor products.

The two topics seeing nearly all 10-year trends improving is that of alcohol and other drug use, and sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 33% of students reported having a drink of alcohol during the past 30 days (43% in 2009); in addition, decreased rates of use were reported for marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, ecstasy, synthetic marijuana, steroids, and injectable illegal drugs. 44% of students reported having had sexual intercourse in their lifetime (48% in 2009). Among sexually active students, IUD use increased from 7% to 12%; however, condom use decreased from 68% to 56%. The middle school report shows that 14% of students drank alcohol during the past 30 days, 9% currently use marijuana and 10% had taken a prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription in their lifetime. 14% of middle school students report having had sexual intercourse in their lifetime; 5% are currently sexually active.

Dietary and physical activity trends reveal behaviors that affect the increasing rates of Montana high school students who are overweight (13%) and obese (12%). Nutritional behaviors show that 34% of students did not eat a green salad during the past week (29% in 2009), and the percent of students that ate any vegetable one or more times a day during the past week decreased from 66% in 2009 to 62% in 2019. 14% of students did not eat breakfast on any of the past 7 days. In addition to these declines in healthy nutrition practices, more students report sedentary behaviors; 37% of students played video or computer games for 3 or more hours per day on an average school day (18% in 2009). 51% of high school students report being physically active at least 60 minutes per day on 5 or more of the past 7 days. Middle school data shows that, during the past 7 days, 35% of students did not eat green salad, 44% ate breakfast daily, and 10% did not eat breakfast on any day


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