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Survey Reveals Top Issues Facing Area Youth

January 16, 2015 1:05 p.m.

While alcohol use continues to be area teenagers’ biggest health concern, the Illinois Youth survey administered every two years by I Sing the Body Electric of Sarah Bush Lincoln also revealed some positive health trends.

“The good news is alcohol and tobacco use and abuse among youth has gone down from 2012 to 2014,” Laura Bollan, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Communities and Body Electric director said. “We are seeing more high school students who say ‘no.’” Alcohol use has topped the survey as teen’s biggest health concern every time I Sing the Body Electric has conducted it, starting in 1998. However, growing health risks such as bullying, texting and driving, and depression and suicide have presented the Body Electric with growing concerns.

In the spring of 2014, a total of 3,361 middle and high school students (72 percent of the student population) from Coles, Clark, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie and Shelby counties participated in the Illinois Youth Survey conducted by Body Electric. They were asked questions about substance abuse, nutrition, drinking and driving, weight control and body image, depression, suicide, safety at school, violence, teen sexuality and tobacco use. According to those students, the top five perceived health risks that they face are: alcohol and drug use, teen sexuality, body image, bullying and depression.

Survey data is used by the Body Electric, schools and other agencies to understand teen risk behaviors and form strategies to improve the lives of area youth. The 2014 survey results include the following facts:

• 82 percent of middle school and 45 percent of high school students surveyed have not consumed alcohol in the past year.

• 8 percent of 8th grade and 24 percent of high school students say they have used marijuana in the past year.

• 36 percent of students said that they had been bullied verbally, and 32 percent said that they had been threatened with or actually physically harmed, in the past year.

• 54 percent of high school teens said that they had texted while driving in the past 30 days, and 27 percent said they had ridden in a car they were driving or driven by someone else who was “high” or had been using alcohol or drugs.

• 78 percent of high school students say their family has clear rules about alcohol and drug use. 50 percent of students say their parents have talked to them about not using marijuana.

• 30 percent of students said that they had felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities.

After releasing the survey results, Body Electric partners with area middle and high school classrooms where students use the survey date to create art projects, which communicate healthy lifestyle choices to their peers. Projects include paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, poetry, videos, and music, to encourage their peers to make healthier choices.

I Sing the Body Electric completed a six-week production period in December where 91 students created 70 art projects at the following schools: Villa Grove Junior High, Humboldt TLC, Stewardson-Strasburg Junior High, Okaw Valley Middle School and Casey-Westfield Junior and Senior High School. The artwork was then displayed at the various schools for three weeks, where students were given the opportunity to discuss their projects with their peers, teachers, and community members in attendance. Body Electric conducts three six-week production periods at area schools followed by three art tours each year. During the Spring semester, Body Electric will be working with 12 schools throughout the region.

For more information about I Sing the Body Electric, visit www.sarahbush.org/bodyelectric or call 888-550-7464. To see the full Illinois Youth Survey report, go to http://iys.cprd.illinois.edu/home/results.

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