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J Sch Health. 2008 Oct;78(10):554-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2008.00343.x.

Violence and drug use in rural teens: national prevalence estimates from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

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University of Kentucky College of Medicine, 138 Leader Ave, Room 129B, Lexington, KY, 40506-9983, USA.



The purpose of this study was to compare national estimates of drug use and exposure to violence between rural and urban teens.


Twenty-eight dependent variables from the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey were used to compare violent activities, victimization, suicidal behavior, tobacco use, alcohol use, and illegal drug use across rural, urban, and suburban teens across the country.


Overall, rural teens were equally or more likely than both suburban and urban teens to report experiencing many measures of violent behavior, victimization, suicide behaviors, and drug use. Among all teens, nonwhites reported equal or higher rates of violent behavior and victimization than whites, but these associations disappeared within the rural-only population.


Rural areas do not appear to provide a strongly protective effect against risk behaviors in teens and may be a risk factor in itself. Community prevention efforts should focus on reaching rural areas and segmenting program content based on need. Where white teens might benefit from an emphasis on preventing tobacco and alcohol use, nonwhite teens would benefit from an emphasis on preventing violence and victimization.

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