HELENA - Montana high school students say they are drinking alcohol less frequently and using seat belts more when driving, but report being bullied more by fellow students, a survey released by the state Office of Public Instruction on Wednesday shows.
Half the students also said they had texted or sent emails while driving the previous 30 days, while 53 percent said they had talked on a cellphone while driving. It was the first time these questions have been asked in the survey.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey polled 4,148 high-school students in 46 randomly selected Montana high schools in February. It's compiled from a 93-item questionnaire developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The self-reporting survey of students is administered by the state Office of Public Instruction in February of odd-numbered years under a cooperative agreement with the CDC.
State Superintendent Denise Juneau said the survey "reminds us how important it is to continually engage youth in frank conversations about risky behaviors."
"It also gives us an opportunity to confront our biggest challenges in ensuring the safety of our young people and highlights the efforts of effective programs whose messages are reaching students," she said.
The survey found significant decreases in alcohol abuse by high-school students since 2009.
The percentage of students who said they have had at least one drink of alcohol during the past 30 days dropped to 38 percent this year from 43 percent in 2009 and 58 percent in 1999. Likewise, the percentage of students who reported binge drinking, or having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row, during the past 30 days dropped to 25 percent this year from 30 percent in 2009.
There was no change in the percentage of students who reported using methamphetamines during their lives. The 2011 survey found that 3 percent had used meth, the same percentage as in 2009, but it was down from 14 percent in 1999.
Results showed that 13 percent of students said they never or rarely wore a seat belt when driving a car, or about the same percentage as in 2009, but down from 20 percent in 2003.
The percentage of students who drove a car after drinking dropped to 11 percent in 2011, down from 12 percent in 2009 from 22 percent in 2001.
Those students who have tried cigarette smoking dropped to 44 percent in 2011, down from 50 percent in 2009 and 70 percent in 1999.
For the second year in the survey, students were asked about bullying and cyber-bullying. In 2011, 26 percent of students said they had been bullied on school property the past 12 months, an increase over the 23 percent in the 2009 survey.
Nineteen percent said in 2011 they had been electronically bullied, such as through email, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites or text-messaging the past 12 months. That's up from 18 percent in 2009.
"Bullying continues to remain a major issue for Montana students and requires actions by administrators, teachers, parents and policymakers," Juneau said.
Those who said they've used marijuana during the past 30 days dropped to 21.2 percent in 2011 from 23 percent in 2009.
However, the percentage of students who said they were offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property during the past 12 months increased to 25 percent in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2009 but down from 30 percent in 1999.
Asked for the first time about prescription drug abuse, more than 18 percent of high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription.
As for sexual behavior, 48 percent of students reported they had had sexual intercourse, about the same figure as in 2009 and an increase from the 43 percent in 1999. Nearly 35 percent said they had had sexual intercourse during the past three months, an increase from 32 percent in the 2009 survey.
Of those currently sexually active, 62 percent said they used a condom during their last sexual intercourse, down from 68 percent from 2009. About 21 percent of sexually active students said they used birth control pills before their last sexual intercourse, down from 27 percent in 2009.
The 1999-2011 Montana High School Trend Report can be found at www.opi.mt.gov/pdf/YRBS/11/Trend/11Trend_HS.pdf.