Fairfax County Releases 2008 Youth Survey
Nov. 14, 2008
- Fourth year for youth survey; more than 22,000 students included.
- Monitors behavior trends and changes that influence health and well-being of county’s youth; new areas incorporated this year.
- 2008 survey report available online.
The results of the 2008 Fairfax County Youth Survey were presented today at a joint meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board. The survey is a collaborative effort of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and Fairfax Partnership for Youth. The anonymous, voluntary survey was administered in February 2008 to 22,251 randomly selected Fairfax County students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades. The survey looked at behaviors, experiences and other factors that influence the health and well-being of the county’s youth.
“This latest snapshot of our young people provides positive evidence of progress in our community,” said Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “Drug use is down, alcohol consumption has lessened, progress in gang prevention and intervention continues. At the same time, however, we must remain vigilant about some troubling signs with teen depression, suicide and risky sexual behavior. Investing in our young people is the single most important investment we can make as a community.”
This is the fourth time that Fairfax County youth have taken part in a survey of this type, which helps to monitor behavior trends and changes and provides crucial information to help prioritize the focus for prevention efforts throughout the community. This year’s survey is the most comprehensive to date. It incorporated questions in several new areas, including physical activity, nutrition, weight and weight loss behaviors, sexual health, and dating violence. The survey is designed to provide information about youth behaviors – positive as well as harmful — and is particularly useful to parents, community leaders, PTAs, school-community coalitions, faith-based organizations and others interested in the safety and well being of the county’s young people.
The 2008 survey identified a number of encouraging outcomes, including:
- Almost all Fairfax County youth surveyed report that there are lots of opportunities to get involved in positive activities in and outside of school. The number of youth who speak Spanish at home who report actual participation in extracurricular activities has increased by 21 percentage points since the last survey and by 24 percentage points for youth who speak other languages at home. Availability of and participation in positive activities outside of school has been shown to be important in preventing unhealthy behaviors.
- More than two-thirds of Fairfax County youth had not used any drugs or alcohol in the previous 30 days, which continues the downward trend for substance use (alcohol, marijuana, binge drinking and cigarettes) since 2001.
- Nearly a quarter of Fairfax County youth are physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.
- Nearly three-quarters of youth have not had sexual intercourse. Of the students who are sexually active, the majority report using condoms and other forms of contraception.
The survey also pointed out the importance of staying connected with youth:
- Despite declines, depression still impacts a significant number of youth.
- Higher percentage of sexually active Fairfax County youth report having four or more partners than their peers nationally.
- Fairfax County youth spend more time on non-academic electronic activities than their peers nationally and about the same amount of time watching television.
- Although dating violence (physical abuse, forced to have sex) numbers are well below the national average, it warrants further attention.
- Gang involvement remains low; 96 percent reported that they have never been in a gang. However, those who were involved with a gang were more likely to have been depressed or considered suicide; report similar but exaggerated drugs use patterns; were 2.5 times more likely to have had sex; and were more likely to be abused by an intimate partner or forced to have sex.
- Sixty percent of the females surveyed are trying to lose weight. In the past 30 days, 10 percent of all the youth surveyed had reported at least one of the following behaviors: gone 24-plus hours without eating to lose weight/keep from gaining weight; vomited or taken laxatives; and taken diet pills, powders or liquids without a doctor’s orders.
Overall, the survey provides Fairfax County with a barometer of the effectiveness of the community in fostering healthy choices in youth and assisting in the development of prevention and other strategies. The survey data provides a motivating force for parent and community action around the opportunities and challenges identified. The survey results will be used to guide the development and modification of programs and services sponsored by the county, the schools and throughout the Fairfax community. Beyond the formal uses of the survey data, the coalition of partners involved in the survey plan an extensive set of communication and education efforts to make survey information accessible and useful for parents, young people, school and community leaders and others interested in promoting safe and healthy behaviors in youth.
The 2008 Youth Survey Report, along with the reports from 2001, 2003 and 2005, is available online.
As with prior surveys, parents of the students selected to participate in the 2008 survey were informed of the content and given an opportunity to preview the questions and sign an “opt-out” form to exclude their student from participating in the survey.
For more information about the youth survey, contact Fairfax County Prevention Coordinator Denise Raybon at 703-324-7124, TTY 711.
Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director of Public Affairs
703-324-3187, TTY 711, Fax 703-324-2010
Media Pager: 703-324-NEWS (6397)
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