The Iowa Department of Public Health’s 2014 Youth Survey finds substance abuse among high school kids has dropped. Survey coordinator, Pat McGovern, says they asked middle and high school students questions about their use of beer, cigarettes and marijuana in the last 30 days.
“When we look at the over the last couple Iowa Youth Surveys, the number of percentage of youths reporting use has declined,” according to McGovern. “From 2012 to 2014 some of them have remained stable — but if we go back to say the 2008 survey and kind of look over time — the numbers are trending downward, which is favorable. That’s what we want to see, that’s our goal.”
The most notable decrease seen in alcohol use among high school students came in the percentage of 11th graders who said they ‘drank beer in the past 30 days,’ which dropped from 19 percent in 2012 to 14 percent in 2014. While he likes the downward trend, McGovern says there’s something they don’t know from the survey. “The one thing we can’t say from these data is what caused it. There’s lots of factors that are going into that, including the prevention programming at both the state and community level, it could be changes in how things are marketed, reporting in the media, portrayal in the movies,” McGovern says.
The survey is done every two years and this year’s survey included questions about e-cigarettes for the first time. “The number or percentage of 11th graders who reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days: 11-percent, 8th graders at fourth percent sixth graders at three-percent,” McGovern says. “And when looking at those percentages in comparison to some other substances like cigarettes or marijuana — the percentages are higher than in those other areas — and that was a surprise to me.” He says they don’t know from the survey if some of the drop in regular cigarette and tobacco use can be attributed to kids now using e-cigarettes.
The 2014 survey found 39 percent of all respondents reported they were bullied at school at least once in the last 30 days by other students calling them names, making fun of them, or teasing in a hurtful way. That’s slightly down from 2012, when 41 percent reported being bullied. McGovern hopes that’s a sign all the efforts to stop bullying are working. “Ultimately the attention we’re giving to it — we’re getting more resources to help prevent bullying, kids I hope are becoming aware that it’s not okay, you don’t have to remain silent — that we’ll start to in the positive direction we want to see them go in,” McGovern says.
These numbers are a statewide view of the survey, and McGovern says they’ll be releasing more detailed numbers on a county-by-county basis. He says that will be helpful for local officials.
“While overall the state numbers might be moving in one direction, you look at a smaller region, those numbers may be different,” McGovern explains. “So as those reports become available, I would encourage people at the community and local level to look at their data,” McGovern says.
Participation in the survey was up from 2012 to 77,139 students representing 85 percent of public school districts.
See the survey here: Iowa Youth Survey 2014 PDF