Friday, June 09, 2006

Hispanic high school students use drugs and attempt suicide at far higher rates than their white and black classmates

Mike Stobbe:

More than 11 percent of Latino students — and 15 percent of Latino girls — said they attempted suicide, according to the report issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rates for white and black students were about 7.5 percent.

Latinos also reported much higher rates of using cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamines.

"We really don't understand this phenomenon as well as we should," said Dr. Glenn Flores of the Medical College of Wisconsin, who spoke at a CDC news conference.

The CDC survey of nearly 14,000 U.S. high school students has been conducted every other year since 1991.

Questionnaires go to students in grades 9-12 in public and private high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers got parental permission for each student who participated.

Adolescents cannot always be counted on to tell the truth about their sexual exploits, drug use or other risky behavior. But officials took many steps to ensure accurate responses, said Howell Wechsler, the director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health.

"We have every confidence if there's any lying going on, it's extremely negligible," he said.

The report contained some good news. Only 10 percent of high school students said they never or rarely wore a seat belt while riding in a car, down from 18 percent in 2003.

Black students reported the most sexual activity, the most TV-watching and the highest use of video or computer games. White kids were the most frequent smokers and heavy drinkers, and were worst about eating enough fruits and vegetables.

U.S. study finds Latino children more likely obese

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