Obesity, Drug Abuse Biggest Problems in US Youth

A study recently undertaken by the University of Michigan cites childhood obesity and drug abuse as the two biggest problems facing American youth.

However, the results were culled not from studies of youth, but a poll of adults to see what America’s grown-ups believe is the most harmful thing to the nation’s youngsters. Not surprisingly, obesity topped out the poll- essentially tied with drug use as the major bad things kids in America face. And from a perhaps not-scientific perspective, it seems the results may be skewed by a) problems that are visible and b) problems that have a significant amount of scarelore to back them up- which could account for the one and two spots on the list below.

Obesity in American children certainly is a problem, but not nearly as much as it is for American adults. Recent CDC estimates put the rate of children who are obese at about 17%, compared to 34% of American adults.

The list compiled by the poll would be interesting viewed side-by-side with a table of actual risks facing US children, but the results of the poll alone indicate these ten issues as those thought to be most risky:

  • Childhood obesity, 33%
  • Drug abuse, 33%
  • Smoking and tobacco use, 25%
  • Teen pregnancy, 24%
  • Bullying, 24%
  • Internet safety, 23%
  • Stress, 22%
  • Alcohol abuse, 20%
  • Driving accidents, 20%
  • Sexting, 20%

At least one expert, however, says that the poll’s results are somewhat accurate- at least when it comes to drug use and perceived risk. Director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School Matthew Davis, MD says:

“The perception of drug abuse as a big problem matches recent national data showing increasing use of marijuana and other drugs by US teens. Meanwhile, although obesity remains atop the list of child health concerns for the fourth straight year, the level of public concern has declined over the last few years in our poll… This may be a warning to public health officials, because it indicates how the public is hearing national messages that previous increases in children’s obesity rates have recently leveled off.”

Do you agree with the University of Michigan’s poll results?