North Shore high school seniors drink more alcohol and smoke less tobacco than students of the same grade statewide, according to this year’s Illinois Youth Survey, which is conducted biennially by the University of Illinois’ Center for Prevention and Research.
At Daily North Shore’s request, a coordinator for the IYS parsed out the data to see how North Shore students compare to statewide trends. The North Shore stats comprise data from Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South, Loyola Academy, Lake Forest, Highland Park, Stevenson, and Deerfield high schools–New Trier Township High School did not participate in the study.
In the ILY survey findings, the number of high school seniors who consumed tobacco in the past 30 days was 18% of North Shore seniors compared to 25% statewide.
Meanwhile, nearly 55% of high school seniors on the North Shore said they consumed alcohol in the past 30 days while 33% engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks. These numbers are slightly higher than the state average* for high school seniors, which was reported as 47% for alcohol use in the past 30 days and 30% for binge drinking in the past two weeks.
More significantly, the gap between the percentage of those who reportedly use alcohol in 12th grade, and those who reportedly use alcohol in 10th grade suggests that a far greater number of students are starting to drink between the ages of 16 and 18 on the North Shore than in the state as a whole.
The numbers need only speak for themselves: the difference between 10th and 12th graders on the North Shore who used alcohol in the past 30 days was 25%, versus 14% for the state. The same held true for binge drinking, where the difference between 10th and 12th graders on the North Shore was 21%, compared to just 13% for the state.
To read the entire report that IYS prepared for Daily North Shore and GazeboNews.com, click on the following: PDF of 2014IYS data for North Shore Schools
At the root of these discrepancies are a wide variety of factors, which means it’s not possible to draw conclusions from any one alone.
“There are so many variables,” said Todd Nahigian, the manager of CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults), which serves youth in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Knollwood. “[But] there has to be something that pushes that percentage beyond just saying that this is an alcohol-ridden community. Alcohol is everywhere.”
One factor, Nahigian said, might be mobility.
“Most of the kids in the upper socioeconomic communities are going to have a car before their counterparts in the state,” he said, referring to the North Shore. By the same token, wealthier teens may have greater access to alcohol, simply because they have the money to purchase it.
Ironically, another major factor may be the North Shore’s rate of college enrollment, which is significantly higher than the state’s.
“If you’re planning on four years at a college or university,” Nahigian said, “the expectation is that when you hit 18, 19, 20-years-old, you’re going to be drinking.” This could lead to the perception—as a high school senior on the brink of college—that drinking constitutes acceptable behavior.
A third factor, though not necessarily unique to the North Shore, is perceived parental disapproval. The less teens perceive their parents as disapproving of alcohol, the IYS data suggests, the more likely teens are to use alcohol themselves.
In response to the question: “How wrong do your parents feel it would be for you to drink beer, wine or hard liquor regularly?” 87% of North Shore 10th graders said either “wrong” or “very wrong.” For 12th graders, the number was 64%.
“I definitely think there’s value to looking at this parental approval/non-approval statistic as it relates to incidents of teenage drinking,” Nahigian said. He went on to say that while some parents make it very clear to their kids that they should not drink, others might unwillingly imply consent when they allow their sons or daughters to attend a party without first asking questions about whether parents are supervising the party and what will be served.
Teenage drinking is a particularly tricky issue, especially for parents, Nahigian conceded. Still, “there’s not as many parents as there could be who sit [their kids] down and say, ‘this is what I expect from you.’ ”
*Any and all references to the state average indicate the state average for the class of 2012, not the class of 2014, as statewide averages for this most recent survey has not been made available yet.