State health and education officials today released results of the state’s latest school health survey, part of a national surveillance system that monitors health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.
The latest survey, given to public high school students in 2013, included questions related to positive influences in a teen’s life, alcohol and drug use, diet and nutrition, physical activity, sexual behaviors, school environment, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.
The survey results include a decrease in teenage alcohol use and binge drinking, over-the-counter drug abuse, physical fighting, and some risky sexual behaviors. Compared to students nationwide, Connecticut students were less likely to be daily soda drinkers (27.0 percent compared to 13.9 percent).
The data also revealed some concerns. Connecticut youth were less likely than their peers across the country to receive at least eight hours of sleep every night (24.2 percent compared to 31.7 percent). While fewer Connecticut youth used illegal drugs, Connecticut high school students reported having access to these drugs at school at a higher rate than the national average (27.1 percent compared to 22.1 percent).
“While the latest survey data show encouraging trends, there are still many Connecticut youth who engage in risky behaviors that compromise their health and future,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Parents, educators, and peers can use this survey data to start conversations with students about how making smart choices are critical to growing up healthy and thriving in school.”
Association between risky health behaviors and academic achievement
The survey results continue to show an association between health risk behaviors and academic achievement. The latest school survey results show that in comparison to student reporting grades as mostly A’s, students reporting grades as mostly D’s and F’s are:
· more likely to drink and drive;
· more likely to have abused prescription drugs;
· more likely to have been in a physical fight;
· more likely to have poor eating habits;
· more likely to watch excessive television after school; and
· more likely to report having a sad or depressed mood.
In addition to good academic performance, student reports of adequate sleep and feelings of strong support from family were associated with reports of healthy behaviors.
“A healthy mind and body equips our students to perform at their highest academic potential. Likewise, a positive learning environment where our students feel welcomed and safe is essential for them to thrive,” said Connecticut State Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Charlene Russell-Tucker. “A strong partnership among schools, families and communities is a critically important factor in creating an educational system that supports students in making healthy and responsible choices.”
Since 2005, the survey continues to find that family and social support were important in protecting youth from engaging in risky behaviors. In May 2014, the CSDE invited the Alliance Districts, the state’s 30 lowest performing districts, for a day-long workshop that focused on building stronger connections with community service providers to help meet the social, emotional, and health needs of their students.
The Connecticut School Health Survey is administered in two sections: the Youth Behavior Component (YBC) and the Youth Tobacco Component (YTC).
The YBC surveys high school students and monitors public health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. Nationally, the YBC is called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results from the national YRBS today. National and Connecticut results can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm.
The YTC is a comprehensive survey of tobacco use, access, cessation, knowledge and attitudes, and exposure among Connecticut students in Grades 6-12. YTC results will be released later this year.
In 2013, 5,434 middle and high school students completed the YTC and 2,405 youth completed the YBC. Both components met the CDC’s criteria to be considered representative of high school students in Connecticut (and middle school students for the YTC). To view more results from the Connecticut School Health Survey, please visit http://www.ct.gov/dph/cshs.