While these trends apply to all U.S. high school students, closer examination reveals that subsets of students have very different experiences, some better and some worse.
Concerning trends about the mental health of students were found. An increasing percentage of American youth felt sad or hopeless for at least two weeks to the degree that they could not engage in their usual activities. The percentage of students who seriously considered suicide or made a suicide plan also increased significantly in the last decade.
Trends over time are improving and moving in the right direction related to sexual behavior and high-risk substance use. Declines were noted in the percentage of students who ever had sex, had four or more sex partners, are currently sexually active, or ever used or injected drugs.
Levels of violence, such as bullying (both electronically and at school) and forced sex, remained high among students. A growing percentage of students surveyed reported that they did not go to school because of safety concerns. These findings indicate that some trends are going in the wrong direction.
Stark disparities were found in key health risk behaviors between sexual minority youth and their peers. Most risk behaviors and experiences were found to be higher, especially regarding substance use, experiencing violence, persistent feelings of sadness, and suicide behaviors.
These 10-year data trends highlight the need for accelerated action to protect the health and wellbeing of students in the U.S. Please share this new trends report with interested colleagues who are supporting youth by implementing HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention education programs and providing health services.