Rural youth report more frequent smoking and drinking
Rural youth report high-risk behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol more frequently than their urban counterparts, according to a January report from the UC 4-H Center for Youth Development at UC Davis.
The report, “California's Rural Youth,” found that California rural adolescents aged 12 to 17 are nearly four times as likely to smoke cigarettes frequently, and are significantly more likely to drink alcohol.
“The higher rates of smoking among rural youth are of great concern,” says lead author Katherine Heck, UC Davis associate specialist.
“In the future, many of these young people will face health problems because of smoking. We found that about 8% of rural adolescents smoked cigarettes regularly, and more than half of them began smoking before age 13.” ( See page 28 for research on how California's Proposition 10 “tobacco tax” funds are distributed.)
Heck and her colleagues also found that significantly more rural youths (39%) than urban youths (29%) have drunk alcohol. More than one in four (26%) rural California adolescents has ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, compared with 17% of urban youth.
“Rural areas often lack public forms of transportation that might be available in urban areas, so drinking and driving may be a greater problem for rural youth,” Heck says.
The UC researchers also found that about 14% of California's rural youth had no health insurance in 2001, compared with 11% of adolescents statewide. Those rural youth who did have insurance were more likely to be insured through public programs such as Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. Fewer than half of rural adolescents had employer-sponsored health insurance.
Despite certain challenges, however, rural adolescents have bright futures, says Stephen Russell, director of the UC 4-H Center for Youth Development. “Most rural youth, 79%, said there was a purpose to their lives, and 82% reported having goals and plans for the future.”
Russell notes that 65% of rural youth reported they have an adult at home who talks with them about their problems, and 77% have an adult at home who listens when they have something to say.
The report was compiled by a team of researchers and UCCE youth development professionals and draws from multiple sources of state and local data, including the California Health Interview Survey, the California Healthy Kids Survey and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
For more info., go to: http://fourhcyd.ucdavis.edu . —Editors