Do Alaska's youth engage in more or less risky behavior than those elsewhere?
According to 2009's national Youth Risk and Behavior Survey data released last week by the Center for Disease Control, it depends on the behavior. Alaska's youth were less likely to have been in a physical fight in the past year but more likely to have carried a weapon such as a gun, knife or club on school property at least one day. Alaska's youth are also more likely to have been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend and more likely to have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse.
Alaska YRBS coordinator Patty Owen pointed to some good news - that teen smoking numbers in the state have decreased to the point at which they are below the national average.
She also pointed out, however, that Alaska youth are "still more inclined to use smokeless tobacco than their national counterparts, which is a challenge we continue to face."
"We're pleased to see the progress made in many areas, and committed to continuing our work where the numbers show we need to improve," she said.
Owen is with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health.
An Empire article on the state's initial release of the 2009 data is available at http://jeonline.org/stories/011010/loc_544923069.shtml.
According to the 2009 survey data, Alaska's youth are more likely to:
Carry a weapon on school property at least one day of the 30 before the survey (8 percent in Alaska, 6 percent in U.S.)
Have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend (13 percent in Alaska, 10 percent in U.S.)
Have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse (10 percent in Alaska, 7 percent in U.S.)
Use chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip (14 percent in Alaska, 9 percent in U.S.)
Have used marijuana at least once in their life (45 percent in Alaska, 37 percent in the U.S.)
Have tried marijuana before age 13 (10 percent in Alaska, 8 percent in U.S.)
Have used both a condom and birth control pills or Depo-Provera (contraception injection) before last sexual intercourse, if sexually active (14 percent in Alaska, 9 percent in U.S.)
Alaska's youth are less likely than youth nationwide to:
Ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (21 percent in Alaska, 28 percent in the US)
Be in a physical fight (28 percent in Alaska, 32 percent in U.S.)
Smoke cigarettes (16 percent in Alaska, 20 percent in U.S.)
Smoke cigarettes on 20 out of the 30 days before the survey (5 percent in Alaska, 7 percent in U.S.)
Have ever drunk alcohol (67 percent in Alaska, 73 percent in U.S.)
Have drunk alcohol in the past 30 days (33 percent in Alaska, 42 percent in U.S.)
Have tried alcohol by age 13 (17 percent in Alaska, 21 percent in U.S.)
Drink soda at least once a day (20 percent in Alaska, 29 percent in U.S.)
Eat fruit and vegetables five or more times a day (17 percent in Alaska, 22 percent in U.S.)
Attend physical education classes in an average week (46 percent in Alaska, 56 percent in U.S.)
Wear a bicycle helmet (73 percent in Alaska and 85 percent nationwide rarely or never wear a helmet)