HealthDay News — Adolescent girls are experiencing increasing levels of sexual violence and persistent levels of sadness or hopelessness, according to a report published online February 13 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Authors from the CDC reviewed the most recent surveillance data and 10-year trends relating to health behaviors and experiences among high school students in the US. These include sexual behaviors, substance use, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and experiences such as violence and poor mental health.
According to the report, several areas of adolescent health and well-being are continuing to improve overall, including risky sexual behavior and substance use. However, other indicators of health and well-being, including experiences of violence, mental health, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, have worsened significantly. Female students seem to be faring more poorly than male students, with almost 20% of girls experiencing sexual violence by anyone during the past year; almost 60% experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year; and almost 25% making a suicide plan. Disparities are also seen among students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, or another nonheterosexual identity, with increased use or misuse of all substances, increased likelihood of experiencing violence, and almost 70% experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
“These data make it clear that young people in the US are collectively experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act,” the authors write. “Although the primary goal of schools is academic learning, they also play a critical role in shaping mental, physical, and social growth.”