New research shows many Cook County teens living unhealthy lifestyles

August 26, 2011

New research shows a large number of suburban Chicago teens are not living the healthiest lifestyles.

The Cook County Public Health Department surveyed more than 1700 high school students at 20 suburban high schools last year. The 91 question survey asked questions on a variety of issues: health, sexual activity, drug usage, and more.

The research, entitled the "Youth Risk Behavior Survey," shows 40 percent of the teens had smoked cigarettes, although 60 percent of them said they had tried to quit in the last 12 months. As for drug abuse, 34 percent of students surveyed had tried marijuana, and almost 10 percent of those students said they tried it before they turned 13 years old. Seven percent of high school students said they had been raped.

According to spokeswoman Amy Poore, this is the first study of its kind with Cook County suburban teens. She said she hopes the results will push legislators to work towards better sexual education in public schools.

"Our high school students are saying they're engaging in sexual activities and these risky behaviors around sexual experience," she said. "It would be really sound data that you could take to a legislator and say look what is really happening, this is happening in your back yard, this is happening in our schools it looks like some changes are needed."

Almost 40 percent of the high school students surveyed said they had sex, and 11 percent of those said they had sex with four or more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured teen sexual activity in 2009, and Cook County teens actually come in below the national average. The CDC found that 46 percent of teens across the nation had had sex.