Iowa is making improvements on alcohol use, but still has a ways to go when it comes to bullying. That’s according to the director of the recent Iowa Youth Survey, which samples 6th, 8th and 11th graders every two years.
In 2016 youth drinking in Iowa continued to decline, especially among 11th graders.
In 2012, more than 26.4 percent of high school juniors reported having a drink in the past 30 days. In 2016 this number dropped to 21.3 percent.
Survey Director Pat McGovern says he’s not entirely sure why Iowa’s youth drinking rates continue to fall.
“But I think that a lot of the good work going across our state, in substance abuse prevention in general, is helping,” he says. “The direct work in individual classes that’s going on with school staff, community members coming in and talking to them, educating them, making them aware.”
The 30-day alcohol use rate among 6th graders has hovered at around 2 percent since 2012, showing no statistically significant movement.
For 8th graders, there was a modest improvement. Since 2012, 30-day alcohol use dropped from 7.2 percent to 5.4 percent.
Bullying numbers have also dropped in Iowa, but McGovern says there’s still work to do on the issue.
In 2016, the overall rate for kids who say they experienced bullying in the past 30 days was 36.9 percent, that’s nearly five percentage points lower than in 2012’s rate of 41.5 percent.
The 2010 survey had a particularly low rate of 35.7 percent. But even this number, McGovern says, is not acceptable.
“When you think one in three, that’s in my opinion still way too high.”
McGovern says the drop from the 2012 rate can be attributed to educators doing a better job responding to bullying. But because bullying also happens outside of schools, he believes that for significant strides to be made communities need to model positive behaviors.