In a survey of Montana high school students on risky behavior, Gallatin County teenagers reported they’re more likely than their statewide peers to avoid texting and using cellphones while driving but they are also more likely to have taken prescription drugs illegally or considered suicide.
Those are some of the comparisons that can be drawn from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released this month by the state Office of Public Instruction.
OPI reported positive trends statewide in tobacco and alcohol use. In the past decade, there has been a dramatic decline in Montana high school students who ever smoked a cigarette, from 61 to 41 percent. In Gallatin County the most recent number was even lower – 36 percent.
Montana students who had been binge drinking (five or more drinks in a sitting) in the previous month decreased from 37 to 24 percent; in Gallatin County it was 22 percent. Montana teens who had at least one alcoholic drink in the last month fell from 50 to 37 percent; Gallatin teens also were at 37 percent.
Montana students who had never or rarely worn a seat belt while driving fell from 20 to 11 percent; in Gallatin County it was 8 percent.
While Gallatin County teens reported less risky behavior in several areas, they appeared to be more at risk on others.
Gallatin high school students were more likely than their Montana peers to say they’d felt so sad or hopeless in the past year they missed out on activities (26 percent in Montana vs. 33 percent in Gallatin County); that they’d considered suicide in the past year (17 percent in Montana vs. 21 percent locally); and that they’d attempted suicide (8 percent in Montana vs. 12 percent in Gallatin County).
Local teens also were more likely to have used prescription drugs like OxyContin, Ritalin or codeine illegally (16 percent in Montana vs. 20 percent locally). And local teens were just as likely to have been in fights in the past year (23 percent in Montana vs. 23 percent locally).
The survey, conducted every two years, is based on a sample of high school students and what they report about their own of risky and healthy behaviors. The surveys are paid for through an agreement with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Gallatin County sample included 473 students who answered 99 questions on everything from drug use to sex, eating vegetables to playing video games.
Compared to teens in the rest of Montana, Gallatin County high school students reported they are:
- Less likely to text or email while driving (56 percent for Montana vs. 36 percent for Gallatin County) and less likely to use a cellphone while driving (61 percent vs. 41 locally).
- More likely to have worn a bicycle helmet when riding in the past year – 80 percent of Montana teens said they never or rarely wore a helmet vs. 66 percent of Gallatin students.
- More likely to have been teased, bullied or called names because someone thought they were gay – 13 percent reported that statewide vs. 17 percent for Gallatin teens. Similar numbers reported being bullied at school – 26 percent statewide and 28 percent for Gallatin County.
Fewer Gallatin teens reported ever having sex – 46 percent of the statewide sample vs. 39 percent locally. Among both Montana and Gallatin teens, 9 percent said they’d been forced to have sexual intercourse they did not want.
Gallatin and Montana high school students were similar when it came to playing team sports (64 percent), and in playing three hours or more of video and computer games on a school day (29 percent).