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37% of teens say they tried sex, 7% say they were raped: Cook Co. poll

Forty percent suburban high school students say they have tried smoking according report survey conducted by Cook County Department Public

Forty percent of suburban high school students say they have tried smoking, according to a report on a survey conducted by the Cook County Department of Public Health. | AP file photo

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:25AM

A newly released, wide-ranging survey of suburban Cook County teens offers an often-disturbing but fascinating look at youth behavior when it comes to sex, drugs, violence and a whole host of other social issues.

“In general, there are so many things that we need to tackle — it’s kind of like, where do we start?” said Amy Poore, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

The report’s highlights: Nearly one in 10 teens attempted suicide; 40 percent have tried cigarettes, and 7 percent claimed they were raped.

Public Health worked with Children’s Memorial Hospital’s Child Health Data Lab and various school administrators to conduct the first Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey for suburban Cook County. About 1,700 students in 20 public high schools took part in the survey, conducted in fall 2010. Students completed the 91-question survey anonymously. The questionnaire, released Thursday, is part of a nationwide effort led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When it comes to sex, 37 percent of those surveyed said they’d tried it. Broken down by ethnicity, 61 percent of African-American kids had tried sex; about 49 percent of Hispanic kids, and 24 percent of Caucasian teens.

About 6 percent of those surveyed said they had sex for the first time before age 13. About 62 percent of those who reported having sex during the last three months said they had used a condom the last time they’d had intercourse. About 7 percent of all teens they had been physically forced to have sex against their will.

Poore said the sex survey results point to the need for better sex education in schools.

“Most schools don’t have comprehensive sex education and are teaching abstinence only, but clearly we have a high amount of students who are engaging in sexual activity,” Poore said.

Poore said she hopes the new data — along with anecdotal information gathered from public health programs — will help in applying for grant money and to push through legislation in Springfield.

Other key findings include:

† 13 percent of all students seriously considered attempting suicide within the last 12 months. About 9 percent of students actually attempted suicide one or more times in that time frame.

† 40 percent of high school students have tried cigarettes.

† More than half of African-American students watched TV three or more hours a day on an average school day.

† About 33 percent of all students have used marijuana at least once.

† About 5 percent have tried cocaine, with a similar percentage reporting using ecstasy. Only about 2 percent of all students reported using heroin.

† About 29 percent of all students were offered, sold or given an illegal drug by someone on school property during the last year.

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