Drugs, Smoking, Alcohol Most Important Problem Facing Teens

by Joseph Carroll

Younger teens mention drugs, alcohol much more frequently than older teens

PRINCETON, NJ -- The issue of doing drugs, smoking, or drinking alcohol is the most important problem facing teenagers in the country today, according to United State teens surveyed in a recent Gallup Youth Survey. Teenagers are also concerned about peer pressure and fitting in, sexual issues like teen pregnancy or STDs, education, ignorance and apathy, and careers or employment in the future. Younger teenagers are more likely to say drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, and violence are the top problems, while older teenagers are more inclined to mention education and youth apathy.

The poll, conducted from Dec. 15, 2005 to Jan. 16, 2006, asked teenagers who are members of Gallup's household panel, without prompting, to name the most important problem facing people their age right now.

The results show that 3 in 10 teenagers (31%) mention consumption of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol as the most important problem. This issue is followed by peer pressure, fitting in, personal appearance, or popularity (17%); sexual issues like teen pregnancy, abortion, or STDs (14%); education (14%); ignorance or lack of youth being involved (10%); and careers, employment, money, or the future (10%).

Fewer than 1 in 10 teenagers mention morality, lack of respect, violence or gangs, or world politics as the top problems.

What do you think is the most important problem facing people your age today?


Dec 15, 2005-
Jan 16, 2006

%

Drugs/smoking/alcohol

31

Peer pressure/fitting in/looks/popularity

17

Sexual issues (teen pregnancy/abortion/STDs)

14

Education

14

Ignorance/lacking of youth caring/getting involved

10

Career/employment/economy/money/future

10

Morals/attitude

8

Lack of respect/treatment from society

7

Violence/gangs

6

World politics

5

Parents

4

Negative effects on media on youth

3

War/draft/terrorism

3

Stress

2

People don't listen to us

2

Health/medical care/coverage

2

Social Security

2

Safety

1

Other

5

No opinion

2

Gallup has asked this question several times since 1977, and the results consistently show that drugs top the list of problems facing teenagers in this country. In 1977, Gallup found that 27% of teenagers mention drugs as the top problem facing people their age. Drug concerns reached a high-point in 1987, when 54% of teenagers said drugs were the top problem. Over the next decade, the percentage of teenagers mentioning drugs as the most important problem declined, reaching a low of 18% in 2003. Now, Gallup is currently measuring an up-tick in mentions of drugs, to the aforementioned 31% in the latest poll.

Younger vs. Older Teenagers

The poll also finds some interesting variations between what younger teenagers (those aged 13 to 15) and older teenagers (those aged 16 to 17) identify as the most important problem.

What do you think is the most important problem facing people your age today?
Dec. 15, 2005-Jan. 16, 2006

13- to 15-
year-olds

16- to 17-
year-olds

%

%

Drugs/smoking/alcohol

35

26

Peer pressure/fitting in/looks/popularity

23

9

Sexual issues (teen pregnancy/abortion/STDs)

14

14

Education

10

18

Ignorance/lacking of youth caring/getting involved

7

15

Career/employment/economy/money/future

8

13

Morals/attitude

8

9

Lack of respect/treatment from society

6

8

Violence/gangs

10

2

World politics

5

5

Parents

3

5

Negative effects on media on youth

3

3

War/draft/terrorism

2

3

Stress

2

3

People don't listen to us

2

2

Health/medical care/coverage

1

3

Social Security

1

3

Safety

1

1

(It is important to note that these differences between younger and older teens are based on smaller sample sizes).

Among all teenagers, drugs, smoking, and alcohol rank as the most important problem, but 13- to 15-year-olds are more likely than 16- to 17-year-olds to name this problem, with mentions at 35% and 26% respectively. Younger teenagers are also more likely than older teenagers to mention peer pressure or fitting in (23% vs. 9%) and violence or gangs (10% vs. 2%) as the top problem facing teenagers today.

Older teenagers more frequently mention education (18% vs. 10% respectively) and ignorance or apathy (15% vs. 7%) than younger teenagers.

Boys vs. Girls

Interestingly, the poll finds few differences in responses to this question between teen boys and teen girls.

What do you think is the most important problem facing people your age today?
Dec. 15, 2005-Jan. 16, 2006

Boys

Girls

%

%

Drugs/smoking/alcohol

32

31

Peer pressure/fitting in/looks/popularity

14

21

Sexual issues (teen pregnancy/abortion/STDs)

11

16

Education

15

13

Ignorance/lacking of youth caring/getting involved

11

10

Career/employment/economy/money/future

11

9

Morals/attitude

10

7

Lack of respect/treatment from society

4

9

Violence/gangs

6

6

World politics

7

3

Parents

1

6

Negative effects on media on youth

3

4

War/draft/terrorism

3

2

Stress

1

3

People don't listen to us

2

2

Health/medical care/coverage

1

3

Social Security

2

1

Safety

1

1

Girls mention peer pressure or fitting in (21% vs. 14%), sexual issues (16% vs. 11%), and lack of respect in society (9% vs. 4%) more frequently than boys, but the differences between boys and girls on these three issues are not statistically significant.

Survey Methods

These results are based on mail and Web surveys with a randomly selected national sample of 480 teenagers in The Gallup Panel of households, aged 13 to 17, conducted Dec. 5, 2005, to Jan. 16, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/21517/Drugs-Smoking-Alcohol-Most-Important-Problem-Facing-Teens.aspx
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