In a 2011 update of a study done four years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) surveyed America's teenagers about their physical health and potentially risky behaviors. Broken down state-by-state, the study presents a picture of what ails us, if we are willing to pay attention.
In Kentucky, the numbers read as not terribly surprising. Our kids are a little more fat than the national average. They smoke and chew more tobacco. They have a little more sex while in high school. But one statistic is startling: Kentucky's teenagers are trying to kill themselves more frequently than other teenagers nationwide.
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, 11 percent of Kentucky youth have attempted suicide, compared to 8 percent nationally. Moreover, 5 percent of Kentucky's teenagers have had a suicide attempt result in an injury, poisoning or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse during the 12-month period before the survey was conducted. That compares to only 2 percent nationwide for kids responding who required the same treatment during the same duration.
If there is good news for Kentucky in the survey, it's this: The state's teenagers are in reasonably good health, but are not getting the physical exercise that the rest of the nation's teens are getting (39 percent vs. 49 percent) and they are playing fewer team sports (46 percent vs. 58 percent). They are heavier (16 percent vs. 13 percent) than the average American teen and more likely (36 percent to 28 percent) to drink a can, bottle or glass of soda or pop one or more times a day.
They are less likely to have never tried smoking (41 percent to 55 percent) than other American teens, to have smoked on a least one day of the last 30 (24 percent to 18 percent), bought their own cigarettes (21 percent to 14 percent) and used chewing tobacco (17 percent to 8 percent). Eight percent of Kentucky teenagers report using pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the last 12 months. That's a bit higher than the national average of 6 percent of U.S. teens who report doing the same.
Kentucky's teenagers are also a bit more likely to have had sexual intercourse while in high school (52 to 47 percent) than the national average, more likely to carried a weapon on a least one day (23 percent o 17 percent), carried a gun (9 percent to 5 percent), though less likely to have been in a physical fight (29 to 33 percent).
To find each of these topics, go here. Look for the heading (physical health, mental health, substance abuse, healthy relationships), then go to the Kentucky site page. A more complete data picture will emerge.