- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas high school students were more at risk of harm from a variety of sources and more likely to engage in unhealthy or dangerous behavior than their peers in other states, according to a 2017 survey.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey earlier this month. Arkansas’ results were based on a survey of about 1,680 students in grades 9-12 and were mathematically weighted to represent all public high school students in the state, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

Arkansas held the top spot in the percentage of students who had ever driven while drinking, seriously considered suicide, been bullied on school property or been a victim of rape or sexual assault. The state was also No. 1 in the percentage of students who were considered obese, had ever been diagnosed with asthma or had a sports-related concussion in the previous year.

Given the state’s high poverty rate, research linking low family income to an increase in behavior issues could help explain some the findings, such as students who said they were bullied or considered suicide, said Richard Livingston, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“The impact of something bad is worse if your supports are more lacking,” he said. “If you’re struggling to make ends meet and pay your rent and eat, then any stressor is going to seem magnified.”

Arkansas students were also more likely to have carried weapons on school property in the past 30 days and to have been threatened or injured with weapons at school compared with their peers in other states, according to the survey.

“This is a pretty strong wake-up call I think that youth across Arkansas are at a greater degree of risk than previously has been recognized,” said Joe Thompson, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

Thompson said the findings may be helpful to the school safety commission appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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