Data Sense: Little change in students’ risky behaviors |

Data Sense: Little change in students’ risky behaviors

Kate Nowak/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

Kate Nowak

— A recent survey of Routt County kids shows that sexual and drug-related behaviors have not changed much in the past year. OMNI Institute, a nonprofit social science research agency, recently released the 2012-13 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey for Routt County. The purpose of the survey is to provide schools and communities with information to develop an understanding of youths’ attitudes and behaviors in Routt County and identify assets or problem areas among youths in our community. The report is used by school districts, nonprofits and the community to partner in reducing the access to risky behaviors and increase the protective factors that could influence our youths.

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership fund the survey, which is given to children in seventh through 12th grades. Yampa Valley Data Partners was able to review the Routt County High School report, which covers ninth through 12th grades and ages 14 to 18. Survey results are for the total county with Steamboat Springs RE-2 representing 75 percent, Hayden RE-1 representing 14.2 percent and South Routt RE 3 representing 10.8 percent.

OMNI states that when the response rate is 80 percent or greater, one can be very confident that the data reflect the experiences of the population being assessed. Routt County survey response rates were between 90 and 99 percent. The survey offers a glimpse into healthy and unhealthy behaviors of our children in Routt County. Survey results provide interesting reading for local parents concerned about the sexual, drug- and alcohol-related behaviors of their children.


When it comes to sex, Routt County kids have similar behaviors to their peers across the state. Thirty-nine percent of Routt County students said they have had intercourse compared to 40.8 percent statewide. This is up a percentage point (38 percent) from the 2009-10 survey. The percentage grows drastically from 18 percent for freshmen to 70 percent for high school seniors. The most common age that Routt County children first have sexual intercourse is 15 years old, which is the same as the last survey.


Twenty-one percent of the survey respondents reported drinking alcohol one to two days during the past 30 days, which is no different from the previous 2009-10 survey results. In comparison, Routt County is doing better than the state at 36.4 percent. In Routt County, a higher percentage of girls than boys reported drinking alcohol in every grade from freshman through senior year in this category, which also was true in the past survey.

When asked how old they were when they first began drinking alcohol regularly, the most common answer was 15 to 16. Kids are reporting that they are having their first drink of alcohol older because the most common answer to the same question in the 2009-10 survey was 13 to 14 years old. The statewide age in 2011 was 13.

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Ten to 12 percent said someone else bought the alcohol or someone gave it to them, and most respondents said they drank at their home (14 percent) or at another person's home (30 percent). An alarming 17 percent of 12th-graders said they drove after drinking, and 18 percent of all high school students rode with a drinking driver. This is an increase from the 2009-10 survey, which states that 14 percent of 12th-graders drove after drinking, and a decrease from 24 percent who rode in a car with a drinking driver.


Forty percent of students responding to the survey said they have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime compared with 44 percent in 2009-10 survey. This is on par with the statewide numbers at 39.5 percent. Again, as with alcohol, the older the student is, the more likely he or she has used marijuana. Kids were 13 to 16 years old when they first tried marijuana (14 percent at age 13 to 14, 20 percent at age 15 to 16). There was no change in age or percentage from the previous survey. When asked how many times they used marijuana in the past 30 days, 81 percent said none. There are more students who have not used marijuana in the past 30 days this year versus the previous year with 73 percent.

Fifty percent said it was sort of easy or very easy to get marijuana. More students drove after using marijuana than alcohol, and more than 30 percent of 12th-graders reported riding with a driver under the influence of marijuana. Results from the 2009-10 survey indicate similar behavior, though more 12th-graders rode with a driver under the influence of marijuana at 40 percent.

In summary, although more students are having sex, they are waiting until they get older. Marijuana use is down, and there are improvements across the board in this category. Alcohol consumption has not changed, but we are better than the state. Kids are starting to drink older but are exhibiting extreme risky behavior by driving after they drink. And more kids are in a car with someone who has either smoked marijuana or drank alcohol.

To view the full report, call Grand Futures Prevention Coalition at 970-879-6188.

Kate Nowak is the executive director for Yampa Valley Data Partners, a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen our communities through collaborative partnerships and providing relevant, timely, accessible data to decision makers.

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