Hispanic high school students in the US use drugs and attempt suicide at higher rates than their black and white peers, says a new federal survey that indicates an on going disturbing trend.
Howell Wechsler of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "It is disheartening that we aren't seeing progress among Hispanic teens for certain risk factors."
The CDC survey of about 14,000 U.S. high school students has been conducted once in 2 years since1991. Results reported Thursday were from last year's survey.
The new report noted black and white students are reporting less sexual activity than in the past, but there was no decline among Hispanics. Experts are clueless as to why this is happening.
Also, Hispanic students were more likely than either black or white students to attempt suicide, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine, heroin or Ecstasy.
The study revealed that Hispanics most often drank alcohol on school property, were offered or sold illegal drugs, and occasionally skipped school because they feared for their safety.
As a possible explanation, Wechsler, director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health noted that the school environments many Hispanics faced may differ considerably from what many blacks or whites encounter.
Adolescents do not usually tell the truth about their sexual exploits, drug use, or other risky behaviors. But CDC officials said they take many steps to get accurate responses. Participation is confidential, kids are spaced apart while answering the questions and teachers are not allowed to influence them while answering the questionnaire.
The survey questions students on a wide variety of behaviors, including sunscreen use, seatbelt avoidance, drug use and suicide attempts.
According to the report, overall TV watching by high school students has been generally steady, with about 35 percent watching three or more hours a day.
The report shows about 63 percent of black students watch three or more hours a day. In contrast, 43 percent of Hispanic students and 27 percent of whites watched too much TV.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only two hours of TV viewing a day for kids.
Physical activity is necessary to develop mental and social skills and help prevent obesity. Continuously watching TV can trigger a violent and aggressive behavior in children.