Colorado survey: Parents the biggest influences on state’s teen behavior

RBC I The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, the state’s only comprehensive survey on the health, well-being and resiliency of young people in Colorado, shows high school students are less likely to engage in risky behaviors if they have a trusted adult in their lives.

The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally. Alcohol use continues to decline, with nearly seven of 10 saying they had not used alcohol in the past 30 days. And nine of 10 Colorado high school youth say they don’t smoke cigarettes, the highest rejection of smoking by high school youth in the past decade.
“The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey shows parents who make healthy choices have children who make healthy choices,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “This comprehensive survey of youth behavior lays out the path to a healthier generation of Coloradans.”
The healthy kids survey shows parents and guardians are the most important influence on a young person’s health and well-being. If a parent feels it’s wrong to use marijuana, their children are four times less likely to use marijuana. If a parent feels it’s wrong to smoke cigarettes, their children are six times less likely to smoke cigarettes. And if a parent feels it’s wrong to drink alcohol regularly, their children are three times less likely to binge drink. For all major categories of substances, Colorado’s middle school and high school students were consistent with national averages in 30-day and lifetime use.
Young people who said they can ask their parent or guardian for help if they have a personal problem are more than three times less likely to attempt suicide and one-and-a-half times more likely to be physically active.
The voluntary, biannual survey is a collaboration of the state departments of Health and Environment, Education, and Human Services, the University of Colorado, Anschutz, and a community advisory committee. It collects information on a wide range of health behaviors and, in 2015, included approximately 17,000 randomly selected students from 157 randomly selected middle and high schools in Colorado.
Public and private organizations across Colorado use this survey’s state and regional health data to identify trends and to enhance school and community-based programs that improve the health and well-being of young people.
The Celebrating Healthy Communities Coalition in La Plata County has used results from the survey to create media campaigns that show the link between strong parental connections and reduced risk-taking behaviors in youth, fostered by conditions such as clear family rules, open communication, sharing facts and talking through scenarios that prepare youth.
“The healthy kids survey helped us reach out to parents to show their influence matters in keeping kids healthy and away from risky behaviors,” said Lauren Patterson, spokesperson for the coalition.
While this survey continues to show progress among Colorado young people in making healthy choices, it also reveals health disparities in some areas of Colorado. The health department works with other state agencies and local communities to provide data and share proven practices aimed at ensuring all young Coloradans have access to caring adults, safe neighborhoods, high-quality schools and inclusive health care.