Friday, December 7, 2018; Silver City, NM: Grant County high school students reported dramatic decreases in current tobacco use, binge drinking and using painkillers to get high in the recent Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey (YRRS) results for 2017. The survey is conducted every two years and gauges the healthy, and not so healthy, behaviors of Middle and High School students across the nation.

yrrs roadshow 2018The Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey Road Show came to Silver City this week with experts (pictured right to left): Dan Green, NMDOH Survey Epidemiologist; Anne Marlow-Geter, Healthy Schools Coordinator; Robyn Viera, UNM Scientific Research Manager; and James Padilla, NMDOH Tobacco Epidemiologist.This week the YRRS Road Show came to town with a presentation from members of the team that conducted and compiled the results from over 40,000 New Mexican Middle and High School students who participate in the survey, according to James Padilla, Tobacco Epidemiologist from the New Mexico Department of Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program. The High School County results were given at the presentation; Middle School results will be released later in the month.

“We are very fortunate to have such investment from school districts and superintendents. Where New Mexico goes above and beyond is the inclusion of Native Americans and rural students. We also include resiliency factors in our version of the survey,” said Dan Green, MPH, Survey Epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health’s Injury and Behavioral Epidemiology Bureau.

So how are Grant County High School students doing? As always, Grant County youth rank high in resiliency factors like having a caring adult in their lives or having friends that care about them. Factors that can protect them from risky behaviors and mitigate emotional or mental distress. 

Unfortunately, 34% of Grant County High School students report they felt sad or hopeless in the past 12 months, slightly less than the state’s average of 36%.

According to Green, “There has been an increased trend in reporting sadness and since 2011; and increased screen time is associated with increased reports of sadness and hopelessness.” Youth report logging screen time on smart phones, computers and video games, even as reports of television watching decrease. Moral: monitor your high schoolers screen time and check in with youths to see how they are feeling.

More good news, current tobacco use among Grant County High School students has dramatically decreased to a reported 29 percent from last survey’s decade high of 49 percent. E-cigarettes, or vaping, in the most used tobacco product among Grant County youth with hooka and cigars ranking a distant second and third in use.

Worrisomely, 52 percent of Grant County High School students have used e-cigarettes in their lifetime, that’s a significantly higher rate lifetime reported use of any other form of tobacco.

Slightly over 20 percent of Grant County High School student report binge drinking, consuming four drinks for women and 5 drinks for men on a single occasion, in the last year, the lowest level in over a decade.

Also, Grant County High School students reported another decease, having their first drink of alcohol before age 13. Only 28 percent reported early initiation into alcohol, which can increase the risk of later additive behaviors in adulthood. Most High Schools students reported accessing alcohol through family or friends. 

Students also reported a decrease in using painkillers to get high, dropping to 9 percent, a steady decrease after peaking at 22 percent in 2011. On a similar note, in the last year 22 percent of Grant County High School students admit to using prescriptions painkillers without a prescription in their lifetime, significantly higher than the New Mexico average of 16 percent.

The YRRS introduced several new questions on gambling, concussions and gender identity.

“We found a big gender disparity in the gambling question,” reported Green. In Grant County High School students only 13 percent of women reported gambling in the last year while in comparison to 37 percent of men gambled. 

About 18 percent of Grant County High school students self-reported concussions with in the last year, and reports increased by grade level with 12-graders reporting the highest percent of concussions.  This question was added due to recent scientific studies on the impact of early brain injury and the concern for athletic injuries.

Green hopes the outcomes of the YRRS will help direct health and wellness policies for schools and the state, but most importantly he said, “Prevention efforts must target the high risk groups and need to outreach to include these students who are sometimes invisible and hard to reach.”

The full YRRS state and county reports are available for download at here

YSAPC is a program of the Center for Health Innovation and funded by the New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention. For more information contact the CHI Prevention and Community Collaboration Director Marisol Diaz at (575) 597-0042 or email: mdaiz@swchi.org.

About the Center for Health Innovation 

The Center for Health Innovation (CHI) is a nonprofit focused on bettering community health in underserved and underrepresented populations.  CHI empowers groups and individuals at a local, state and national level to determine the future wellbeing of their communities through the development and implementation of innovative policies, strategies and evidence-based models. Founded in 2015, CHI is headquartered in Silver City, with additional offices located throughout New Mexico. For more information, visit here.

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