US teens are having less sex, doing fewer drugs and smoking fewer cigarettes than those who grew up in the 1990s, a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.
They are also more likely to use condoms when they do have sex, wear a seat belt and avoid getting into a car with a driver who's been drinking, the national study of youth risk behavior found.
About 48 percent of high school students were no longer virgins in 2007, down from 54 percent in 1991.
Meanwhile, just 15 percent said they'd had four or more sexual partners, down from 19 percent in 1991.
And 62 percent of sexually active students said they'd used a condom the last time they had sex, up from 46 percent in 1991.
Some 35 percent of teens had at least one drink of alcohol in the month before they were surveyed in 2007, down from 42 percent in 1991.
Recent marijuana use had fallen to 20 percent of students from a peak of 27 percent in 1999 while methamphetamine use is down to four percent of teens surveyed in 2007 from 10 percent in 2001.
Nearly half as many students admitted to carrying some kind of weapon: 17 percent in 2007 compared with 33 percent in 1991.
But there has been little change in the number of students who said they'd stayed home from school because they felt unsafe either in the building or on the streets: seven percent in both 1991 and 2007.
Only 12 percent of students said they'd rarely or never worn a seat belt in 2007, down from 35 percent in 1991. Just 27 percent said they'd gotten into a car with a driver who'd been drinking, down from 36 percent in 1991.
"We are pleased that more high school students today are doing things that will help them stay healthy and avoiding things that put their health in danger," said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health.
"Unfortunately we are not seeing that same progress among Hispanic teens for certain risk factors."
While there had been a decrease in the number of black teens who'd had sex (66 percent in 2007 compared with 82 percent in 1991) and among white teens (44 percent in 2007 compared with 50 percent in 1991), there was no change among Hispanic teens (52 percent in 2007 and 53 percent in 1991.
Hispanic students were at greater risk than their counterparts in a number of significant ways, according to the study.
"Hispanic students were more likely than either black students or white students to attempt suicide, use cocaine, heroin or ecstasy, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or go 24 hours or more without eating in an effort to lose weight," Wechsler said in a conference call with reporters.
"Hispanic students were also more likely than both black students and white students to say they did not go to school on occasion because of safety concerns, were offered or sold illegal drugs on school property or drank alcohol on school property."
Black students, meanwhile, were more likely to be sexually active and to have been involved in a physical fight or hit by their girlfriend or boyfriend in the past year.
They were four times as likely as whites and twice as likely as Hispanics to have had sex before the age of 13 (16 percent compared with four percent for whites and eight percent for Hispanics.)
They also watched a lot more television: 63 percent of blacks watched more than three hours a day compared with 27 percent of white and 43 percent of Hispanics.
Smoking cigarettes was highest among whites: 23 percent of white students were smokers compared with 17 percent of Hispanics and 12 percent of blacks.
A nationally representative sample of more than 14,000 students in grades nine to 12 were surveyed.
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