Students fare well in avoiding health risks
A study shows that Hawaii high school students are less likely than students nationally to engage in behavior that poses health risks.
A national study indicates that high school students across the country are less likely to engage in behavior that poses health risks, and Hawaii's public high school students are less risky in most categories than their counterparts on the mainland. But in some areas, Hawaii students behave in ways that are less healthy, and schools should focus on improvement.
Only 12.8 percent of Hawaii students surveyed throughout last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had smoked a cigarette in the previous 30 days, compared to 20 percent nationally. In Hawaii, 29.1 percent had taken an alcoholic drink during that period, while 44.7 percent nationally had imbibed.
The study, taken every two years, showed that Hawaii students were less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. However, 92.2 percent of Hawaii students were not enrolled in daily physical education classes, compared to less than 70 percent of students nationally. That is an area that needs improvement in our school system.
While Hawaii's percentage of students who seriously considered suicide declined from 27.8 percent in 1998 to 18.5 percent last year, they ranked second highest only to New Mexico among the 39 states surveyed. Only Wyoming had a higher rate than Hawaii's 17 percent who made a suicide plan. The study found that 12 percent of Hawaii students attempted suicide during last year, compared to 6.9 percent nationally.
School teachers, parents and friends should be alert to the warning signs of depression, anxiety and anger in students. Dan Galaris, an epidemiologist at the state Health Department's Injury Prevention Program, noted that suicide rates generally increase in households with lower incomes and educational levels.
As a two-day conference last November noted, a suicide occurs in Hawaii an average of once every three days, a rate that nears traffic fatalities as the state's leading cause of death by injury.
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