Youth survey: Drinking rates up among high school seniors

May 14, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

More high school seniors binge drink in the Issaquah School District than their peers in the state, according to the results of the 2012 Healthy Youth Survey.

Every two years, students across the state are asked to voluntarily take an anonymous survey of nearly 250 questions about risky behaviors and other items related to their well-being. The survey — a joint effort between the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Family Policy Council and several other state agencies — was administered in October to 295,899 Washington students, in grades six, eight, 10 and 12.

A majority of students from all five of the district’s middle schools participated, as well as many from Liberty and Issaquah high schools. Sixty-nine percent (348 students) of the sophomore class at Skyline High School also took part. Seniors there, however, did not because of a registration error.

A summary of the results was presented at the April 24 Issaquah School Board meeting.

“This is truly a reflection on our community,” Dennis Wright, the district’s director of career and counselling services, said during his presentation to the board. “In many ways, we are much like the state of Washington. Most communities are having these issues.”


Alcohol use higher than state average

When asked if they had ever drank an alcoholic beverage, fewer of Issaquah’s sixth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students (20, 25 and 47 percent) answered yes than the state average (23, 35 and 52 percent) for their age.

That trend didn’t hold true for high school seniors. Statewide, 68 percent of 12th-grade students reported having drank alcohol at least once. The rate was about the same at both Issaquah and Liberty.

The high school numbers did not stay the same when it came to the amount and frequency. Statewide, 36 percent said they had consumed at least one drink in the past 30 days and 22 percent said they had recently had a drinking binge, which the survey defined as having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks. At Liberty, 45 percent of the seniors surveyed said they drank in the past month and 29 percent admitted to binge drinking. The rate of binge drinking rose to 32 percent at Issaquah, while having consumed alcohol in the past 30 days was 43 percent.

“If I brought you math scores and our kids were significantly lower than the state average we’d be pretty alarmed,” said Ron Thiele, the district’s associate superintendent. “We should be pretty alarmed when are kids’ binge drinking scores are higher than the state average.”

Smoking, drugs not as prevalent

Local seniors may admit to drinking more often then their peers elsewhere, but according to the survey, they don’t smoke tobacco or marijuana as much. Nor do they use as many prescription drugs or illegal drugs, like cocaine and meth.

“I do believe that part of living in a very affluent community is the possibility that liquor cabinets are well-stocked,” Wright said.

School board member Suzanne Weaver agreed and noted that local students reported it is easier to get alcohol than cigarettes.

Twenty-two percent of sophomores in the state described getting alcohol as “very hard.” That number dropped to 15 percent for the Issaquah School District. Statewide, as well as locally, a little more than 30 percent of sophomores described getting cigarettes as “very hard.”

“I thought it was interesting, when you looked at the full survey, that kids have really gotten the message about tobacco,” Weaver said. “And then, you look at marijuana and alcohol and it’s no big deal.”

While nearly one-fourth of local sophomores and almost half of their senior upperclassmen drank in the past month, only between 6 percent and 9 percent said they smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days. About one-third of that same group said they had smoked pot recently.

“Right now, probably anybody who watches TV has seen the TV commercial of the woman speaking through her trachea,” Thiele said, “that’s the image of smoking in America today that our kids see on TV. Let’s think about some of the alcohol commercials on TV.”

As he said that members of the board and Superintendent Steve Rasmussen began commenting at once about how drinking commercials are fun and centered on sporting events.

“So, it’s a diametrically opposed image,” Thiele added.


Bullying, considering suicide also problems

Alison Meryweather, the newest member of the board, said she had thought the message had also gotten out about the dangers of drinking and driving, and was surprised by the survey results.

All students, except the sixth-graders, were asked if they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking in the past 30 days. Thirteen percent of eighth-graders said they had; 17 percent of 10th-graders, 14 percent of Liberty seniors and 19 percent of Issaquah seniors also answered yes.

“That was very eye-opening to me to see, not just the binge drinking, but getting in a vehicle, which as we know has deadly consequences,” Meryweather said.

The survey also addressed several other issues including bullying and depression. Around Washington and Issaquah, about one-fourth to one-third of students surveyed said they had been bullied in the past 30 days. When it came to depression, local students were slightly below the state average. Locally, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 29 percent of sophomores said they had experienced depressed feelings in the past year. Another 12 percent in grade eight and 20 percent in grade 10 said they had seriously considered suicide in the past year.

“I look at the numbers and I think it’s alarming,” board president Brian Deagle said. “It is a sad statement on what our kids are going through, and I think we can do more.”

This was the first year that students in eighth, 10th and 12th grade were asked if whether or not they had sex. Statewide, 15 percent of eighth-graders and one-third of sophomores said they had. In Issaquah, those rates dropped to 8 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Nearly half of all those who said they had had intercourse said that they did not use a condom.


Learn more

  • The complete results can be found on the district’s website, From the homepage, click on “Health policies and information” under the family resources tab, before following the link “Healthy Youth Survey 2012.”
  • he Issaquah Community Network and Drug Free Community Coalition are hosting a forum from 8-9:30 a.m., May 16. The group will meet in the council chambers of Sammamish City Hall to discuss ways to reduce teen alcohol and drug use.


Youth depression and suicide

Nearly one-third of Washington students reported experiencing depressed feelings in the past year, and the number of those who seriously considered suicide was not that much lower. Here’s how local students answered. Numbers reflect the percent of students who said they had those feelings.


Eighth grade

School                  Depressed           Contemplated suicide

Pine Lake              14                         10

Beaver Lake          16                         10

Issaquah                23                        16

Maywood              19                         12

Pacific Cascade     13                         13


10th grade

Issaquah              31                           20

Liberty                30                            17

Skyline                26                            20


12th grade

Issaquah           31                             11

Liberty              31                              19


Note: Skyline High School seniors did not take part in the survey because of a registration error.

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One Response to “Youth survey: Drinking rates up among high school seniors”

  1. Friends of Youth on May 16th, 2013 4:19 pm

    Friends of Youth’s youth and family service programs, in conjunction with the Issaquah Community Network and Drug-Free Community Coalition, participates each year that the Healthy Youth survey results are reported in a public community education forum. When the Healthy survey results are released, trends are identified, as is noted this year in the Issaquah Press. The trends include higher alcohol use than the state average, and a high amount of binge drinking among high school seniors. Depression, bullying and suicide risks also were identified. Our Youth and Family service programs, which include outpatient substance abuse treatment and outpatient mental health counseling, provide assessment, individual, group and family counseling as well as school-based outreach to address these issues. Many times, youth experience more than one problem, such as substance abuse and depression. The sooner these issues can be addressed the better for the youth and their families. Identifying the risks early on and getting help as soon as is possible will help in reducing alcohol and drug abuse, depression, suicide and more. Thank you for highlighting this issue during National Prevention Week May 12-18.

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