Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Comparison of Selected Health Risk Behaviors between Adolescents in Public and Private High Schools in South Carolina

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Comparison of Selected Health Risk Behaviors between Adolescents in Public and Private High Schools in South Carolina

Article excerpt

A dolescence encompasses a time when various healthrelated beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are adopted and consolidated.[1-2] Adolescents have increased freedom and greater access to many health-compromising materials and experiences -- such as drugs, alcohol, and sexual risk-taking -- as well as to many health-enhancing experiences -- such as regularly scheduled exercise and healthful diets.[1] Therefore, adolescence is a period in which many healthrelated behaviors are developed and internalized.[1]

In the United States, 72% of all deaths among youth and young adults aged 5-24 result from four causes: motor vehicle crashes, which account for 28% of these deaths; other unintentional injuries, which account for 11%, homicides, which account for 21%; and suicides, which account for 12%.[3] Young people in the United States suffer significant morbidity and social problems resulting from the 1 million unintended pregnancies among teenagers every year.[4] Significant morbidity also results from the estimated 10 million cases of increasingly serious sexually transmitted diseases that occur every year among persons aged 15-29.[5] In addition, HIV infection is now reported as the sixth leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.[3]

Substance use is prevalent among high school students of grades 9-12. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 1995 approximately 35% of high school students reported smoking cigarettes during the previous 30 days, 11% reported using smokeless tobacco, 52% reported drinking alcohol, and 25% reported smoking marijuana.[6] Primary reasons for experimentation and use of substances appear to be need for stimulation,[7] peer pressure,[7,8] curiosity, loneliness, need for relaxation, and recreation.[9] Alcohol is the only substance to surpass cigarettes and marijuana in frequency of use.[6,9]

To monitor certain priority health-risk behaviors of adolescents, the CDC developed the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS),[10] and subsequently, a study documented the reliability of the YRBS questionnaire for use with high school adolescents.[11] The YRBSS attempts to determine the extent to which adolescents are putting their health and well-being at risk. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) encompasses six categories of behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States: unintentional and intentional injuries; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors contributing to unintended pregnancy; STDs, including HIV infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. These youth risk behaviors, which frequently interrelate, are often established during youth and extend into adulthood.[1,2]

However, researchers and practitioners know little about adolescents who attend private high schools. For the most part, the YRBSS is focused on public high schools' grades 9 through 12. Private high school students may or may not be represented in household surveys. Even if they were accounted for in household surveys, prevalence estimates of their health risk behaviors have not been documented with any level of specificity. This study. therefore, estimated prevalence of selected health risk behaviors of students in private high school (PVTHS) and compared the results with students in public high school (PUBHS). Both groups of students attended schools in South Carolina.



The CDC 1995 YRBS was used for this study of ninth through twelfth graders attending PUBHS and PVTHS in South Carolina. Composed from 215 schools, the original PUBHS sampling frame was designed and conducted by Westat, Inc., which used PCSample. Public high schools were selected systematically, using a random start within each stratum proportional to minority enrollment. Seventy-four schools in 49 school districts were selected from the original 215 schools. …

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