ATLANTA - Hispanic high school students use drugs and attempt suicide at higher rates than their black and white classmates, according to a new federal survey that shows a continuation of a disturbing trend.
The study is the latest in a series of surveys of U.S. high school students every two years. It noted that black and white students reported less sexual activity than in years past; there was no decline among Hispanics.
In addition, Hispanic students were more likely than either blacks or whites to attempt suicide, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine, heroin or ecstasy.
Hispanics also most often drank alcohol on school property, were offered or sold illegal drugs, and occasionally skipped school because they feared for their safety, according to the 2007 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts were unable to explain why Hispanic behavior trends differed. They speculated that school environments many Hispanics face may differ considerably from what other adolescents encounter.
"There's tremendous segregation in our schools," said Howell Wechsler, director of adolescent and school health for the CDC.
The finding is from a survey of 14,000 high school students done every other year since 1991. Questionnaires go to students in grades 9 through 12 in public and private high schools in all 50 states. Researchers got parental permission for each participant.
The survey asks about a wide variety of behaviors, including sunscreen use, seat-belt avoidance, drug use and suicide attempts. Among other findings, the study noted the decline in smoking meant that the proportion of kids who said they recently smoked a cigarette was the same as for those who used marijuana - 20 percent.
About 10 percent to 11 percent of Hispanic students said they attempted suicide, compared with 7 percent of whites and 8 percent of blacks.