Richard O. Jones

More than 11 percent of all Latino students — and 15 percent of Latino girls — said they had attempted suicide, according a 2005 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The white and Black rates were about 7.5 percent. Latinos also reported much higher rates of using cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamines; their use of condoms was at lower rates than the other population groups.

The CDC survey of nearly 14,000 U.S. high school students has been conducted every other year, since 1991. Questionnaires go to students in grades 9-12 in public and private high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers got parental permission for each student who participated.

The report contained some good news. Only 10 percent of high school students said they never or rarely wore a seat belt while riding in a car, down from 18 percent in 2003. But the percentage of students who said they had smoked in the last month rose slightly — 23 percent, up from about 22 percent in 2003. Also, there was no decline in the percentage of students who said they'd had sexual intercourse, which held steady at 47 percent, or in the percentage of sexually active students who said they'd used a condom, which was 63 percent.

Black students reported the most sexual activity, the most TV-watching and the highest use of video or computer games. Perhaps such activity reflects in poor math and reading scores and higher high school dropout rate on a national level. White kids were the most frequent smokers and heavy drinkers, and were worst about eating enough fruits and vegetables. However, it seems not to determine their destiny and they more often continue successfully with their education. But Hispanic students had other problems. About 36 percent of Hispanics reported prolonged feelings of sadness or hopelessness, slightly higher than previous years. In contrast, about 28.5 percent of black students reported such feelings in the 2005 survey, about the same as two previous surveys. And about 26 percent of white students reported such feelings, down slightly from 2003 and 2001.

In the category of drug use, 1 in 8 Latino students said they had done cocaine, 1 in 10 had done ecstasy, 1 in 11 methamphetamines and 1 in 28 heroin. Hispanics reported much higher rates of drug use in previous surveys, and that hasn't changed. Being suicidal and high drug use in Hispanics may contribute to their antisocial behavior in disproportionate numbers.