Not-So-Risky Business

Jake Mulder | Jun 25, 2012

Are you realistic about the types of risky behavior your teenagers are engaged in?

As a youth worker, my experience has been that I interact with students in such limited settings that Im often unable to gain an accurate understanding.

In an effort to clear the confusion and understand national trends, the CDC recently released its annual report, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. The report details the behavior of youth that contribute to increased disease and mortality, divided into six areas:

  • Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence (33% of high school students had texted or e-mailed while driving within the thirty days before the survey).
  • Tobacco use (18% had smoked cigarettes).
  • Alcohol and other drug use (39% had drunk alcohol and 23% had used marijuana).
  • Sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and HIV (47% of students had ever had sexual intercourse).
  • Unhealthy dietary behaviors (6% had not eaten a vegetable in the week before the survey).
  • Physical inactivity (31% had played a video or computer game for 3 or more hours on an average school day).

While this report focuses on national statistics, you can find research specific to your area by clicking here.

The part of the study that I found most surprising was its interpretation of the data in comparison with long-term trends. The report reveals, Since 1991, the prevalence of many priority health-risk behaviors among high school students nationwide has decreased.

Decreased? It seems that most people I interact with would say todays teenagers are getting into more risky behavior at a much younger age.

What do you think based on your own experience with young people? Are risky behaviors among teenagers increasing or decreasing?

Jake Mulder

Jake Mulder is the Senior Director of Strategy at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and Fuller's Executive Director of Leadership Formation Division. As Senior Director of Strategy at FYI, he oversees business administration, coordinates new research, develops resources and trainings, and helps the team think strategically. Jake holds a BA in Business Administration in Finance from Western Michigan University, an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing a PhD at Fuller. Passionate about helping individuals and organizations achieve their full potential, he is the coauthor of Growing Young. Prior to joining the FYI team, Jake worked in a variety of ministry and professional roles, including as a Financial Analyst, Youth Pastor in the Reformed Church of America, Ministry Director with Youth for Christ, and missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Europe and Asia. Jake and his family live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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