Exeter Students' Reported Use of Alcohol, Drugs Is Below National Averages

Survey showed steady declines in use of drugs and alcohol over the past 10 years.

February 23, 2017
Academy Building

Students at Phillips Exeter Academy drink less alcohol, smoke less pot and use less tobacco than their peers, and that use has declined steadily over the past decade. 

Those were some of the broad takeaways from the most recent assessment of the Youth Health Risk Behavior Survey, last completed by Exeter students in May 2015.

Over 90 percent of the student body completed most of the 2015 survey. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. The results were compared to surveys taken in 2005 and 2007 to determine trends and changes over time.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1990, monitors priority health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States.

From 1991 through 2015, the YRBSS has collected data from more than 3.8 million high school students in more than 1,700 separate surveys.

General trends revealed that Exeter students’ use of drugs and alcohol declined markedly over the past 10 years. In 2005, 39 percent of respondents reported alcohol use in the previous month; in 2015 that had dropped to 16 percent -- about half the national average.

Binge drinking, defined as “five or more drinks in a row within a couple hours,” was cut in half over the past 10 years to about 8 percent of students -- less than half the national average.

Similarly, use of marijuana declined over the previous 10 years, and its prevalence was roughly half the national average. Older students were more likely to have used marijuana in the previous 30 days than younger students, with the school average for use in the past 30 days at 11 percent.

Use of any form of tobacco in the previous 10 years declined slightly, with older students being more likely to use tobacco than younger students. The school average was about 7 percent reporting use in the past 30 days – a little more than a third of the national average.

Exeter’s work to help students manage their time, workload and activities will continue to be a priority. The percentage of Exeter students who reported being “very pressured or stressed” or “so stressed I can’t stand it” rose from 35 percent in 2005, to 38 percent in 2007, to 42 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported being “very nervous or anxious” or “so nervous or anxious I can’t stand it” moved from 17 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2015.

The percentage of Exeter students who reported feeling in the past year “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that” they “stopped doing some usual activities” is below the national average for high school students. However, it rose from 20 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2015, which is just below the national average of 30 percent.

The percentage of students getting more than eight hours of sleep per night was about 18 percent, which is lower than the national average of 27 percent.