The CDC, teen risks, and who is vulnerable

Posted on: 06/19/18 3:40 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Fewer high school students are drinking, having sex and using drugs… but the CDC still says the findings of their most recent teen risk assessment “leaves room for concern.”

And please don’t undervalue my use of the word “fewer.” I really mean “a whole bunch!” We’re not talking a few percentage points. For example, in 1997 a whopping 37% of kids “currently” smoked cigarettes (in the 30 days prior to the survey). In 2017 only 8% “currently” smoke cigarettes. That’s a huge decrease!

Why is this? Why the overwhelming decrease in the number of kids engaging in many of these risky behaviors, and what are these concerns the CDC is referencing about their new survey results?

Let me give you the quick answers:

Why are today’s kids engaging in less sex, taking less drugs… even smoking less marijuana (yes, really) …than kids in years prior? A few months ago I listened to Dr. Jean Twenge talk specifically about this and her answer was simple: kids aren’t hanging out together as much. They’re staying home staring at screens.

It’s hard to have sex when no one else is in the room.

So what is the CDC concerned about?

I’ll highlight two concerns:

1. Even though kids are engaging in less risky behaviors, they’re still experiencing consequences. For example: the number of kids having sex is down, but the number of people with STDs is at an all time high. Why is this? Maybe because this year’s data shows less kids using condoms. Or perhaps kids are also participating in sexual activities that spread STDs, but aren’t intercourse (oral sex, anal sex).

Some of these consequences are psychological. For example, “feeling sad and hopeless” is up, but just a little, unless you compare young people by sexual identity… which leads me a second concern…

2. Young people identifying as LGBTQ are far more likely to take risks and experience consequences than kids who identify as heterosexual.

Again, this is no small percentage. For example, this new CDC report shows 27% of heterosexual high school kids “feeling sad or hopeless “almost every day for 2 weeks or more in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities, during the 12 months before the survey.” But 63% of gay, lesbian or bisexual high school kids felt the same way. More than double.

Or 19% of heterosexual kids used marijuana within 30 days of the survey, compared to 30% of gay, lesbian or bisexual kids. Cigarettes 8% of heterosexual, compared to 16% of gay, lesbian or bisexual. Again… double.

Bottom line: LGBTQ kids are hurting.

So let me ask you this?

What are you doing to help them? (This is something my friends Greg Stier, Sean McDowell and I hope to do something about at this conference…)

Or are we just leaving that up to Justin Bieber?