Survey of Montana Teens Highlights Positive Trends and Areas for Improvement

Tuesday, July 9, 2013
By Allyson Hagen

Survey of Montana Teens Highlights Positive Trends and Areas for Improvement
Alcohol and Tobacco Use Continue to Decline

Helena, MT – Today, the Montana Office of Public Instruction released the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results for Montana high school students.  The 99-item questionnaire developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a self-reporting student survey administered by the Office of Public Instruction in February of every odd-numbered year. 

"The YRBS survey reminds us how important it is to continually engage youth in honest conversations about risky behaviors," stated Superintendent Denise Juneau. "It also gives us an opportunity to confront our biggest challenges in ensuring the safety of our young people and highlights the efforts of effective programs whose messages are reaching students."

During the last decade, high school students who have ever smoked a cigarette decreased from 61 percent to 41 percent; students having at least one drink of alcohol during the past 30 days decreased from 50 percent to 37 percent; and binge drinking (five or more drinks on one occasion) during the past 30 days has decreased from 37 percent to 24 percent. Additionally, students who never or rarely wore a seat belt when driving a car declined from 20 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2013.

Students were asked for the second time about prescription drug abuse. Sixteen percent of high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription, down from 18 percent in 2011.

One cause for concern amongst youth who drive is the issue of distracted driving. For the second time, students were asked two questions regarding distracted driving behaviors.  Fifty-six percent of students report having texted or e-mailed while driving a car during the past 30 days, up from 50 percent in 2011, and 61 percent talked on a cell phone while driving a car during the past 30 days, up from 53 percent in 2011.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.

Juneau stated, "Accidents related to cell phone calls and texting are completely preventable. As adults, we can lead by example by putting our phones down and focusing on the road.”

Students reporting that they have been bullied on school property (26 percent) or online through e-mail, social networking, instant messaging and text messaging (18 percent) remained statistically unchanged from 2011. For the first time, the YRBS survey asked about the percentage of students who had been the victim of teasing or bullying because someone thought they were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and 13 percent of students reported they had that experience.

"Bullying remains an issue for Montana students and requires action by administrators, teachers, parents and policymakers," stated Juneau. "As adults, we need to take this issue seriously and continue to make a concerted effort to provide safe learning environments for students."

Other new questions related to dating violence, the “choking game,” inhalants, binge drinking, hunger, consumption of soda and tanning.

The Office of Public Instruction has administered the survey in Montana, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, since 1991.

National comparisons for this year’s YRBS will not be available until 2014.

The 1999-2013 Montana High School Trend Report can be found here:

Additional 2013 YRBS Reports
Reports on American Indian students, middle school students, students attending alternative schools, students with disabilities, and reports by region of the state can be found at:


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