INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana teens are drinking less alcohol than in the past, but are more likely than their U.S. counterparts to commit suicide, according to a new study of young people's health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011 survey, released Friday, found that the number of Indiana high school students who admitted to binge drinking within the previous 30 days had declined by 9 percent compared with 2003. The number who had drank at all within the previous 30 days also declined.
Students in Indiana were less likely than others across the U.S. to have driven a car when drinking alcohol, declining from 12 percent in 2003 to 5 percent in 2011.
They also were less likely than teens in other states to have had their first drink of alcohol before they were 13 years old, the study found.
But the study also found that Indiana teens were more likely to attempt suicide, with that number rising from 7 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2011.
Allen County Health Commissioner Deborah McMahan told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne that prescription drug abuse was rapidly increasing in popularity among teens.
"I'm wondering if we are seeing a decrease in alcohol consumption simply because the teens have switched to something else," she said.
Many teenagers are stressed and depressed, she said, and tend, like adults, to self-medicate.
State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin saw other unhealthy behaviors among Indiana's youth.
"It's encouraging to see the improvement Indiana high school students have made in reducing alcohol-related health risk behaviors," Larkin said in a news release. "However, childhood obesity remains a serious health risk for our young people. The survey demonstrates that we still need to make improvements in the areas of nutrition and physical activity."
According to the CDC study, 85 percent of Indiana high school students didn't eat as much fruit and vegetables as the government recommends, and were less likely than others to get enough exercise.
The survey focuses on students' health risks and behaviors in six categories: alcohol and other drug use, injury and violence, nutrition, physical activity, sexual behavior and tobacco use. It is conducted every two years among a representative group of students in grades 9-12.
The report can be viewed at: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm