cent) said they thought it was important to use contraception each and every time they had sex, 30 percent of girls reported having been completely unprotected the last time they had sex, and between 30 and 38 percent of teens who used contraception did so inconsistently (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2000). Furthermore, rates of sexually transmitted diseases and both HIV and AIDS were alarmingly high among adolescents in general, and particularly high among black and American Indian youth living in poor communities (National Center for Health Statistics, 2000). In fact, half of all new HIV infections occurred among people under the age of 25, and one-quarter of new infections occurred among people between the ages of 13 and 21 (Kirby, 1998).

Smoking among teens in 2000 had declined since its peak in 1996, following a dramatic 50 percent increase since 1991. However, smoking is still quite high among youth. Nearly 63 percent of adolescents have tried cigarettes by the 12th grade, and 31 percent are currently frequent smokers (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2000). Smoking rates among white and Hispanic young people are also notably higher than among black youth (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000b). Binge drinking is also quite high, particularly among white and Hispanic youth (National Center for Health Statistics, 2000; Blum et al., 2000).

The daily participation of adolescents in high school physical education classes dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 27 percent in 1997 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000b). The overall prevalence of obesity among adolescent 12- to 19-year-olds in the United States more than doubled in 34 years—increasing from 5 percent in 1965 to 14 percent in 1999 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999). And, from 1988 to 1994, approximately 11 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds were seriously overweight (National Center for Health Statistics, 2000). Of the youth surveyed in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (called Add Health), 13 percent (representing 2.5 million U.S. youth) reported having had suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide in the previous 12 months. White, Hispanic, female, and poor youth were the most likely to report these thoughts and behaviors (Blum et al., 2000; National Center for Health Statistics, 2000).

Violent Behavior

In 1997, homicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24; it was the leading cause of death among black

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement