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CDC Releases 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Results

Group of college studentsCDC releases new data on health risk behaviors among high school students. Learn more about working with young people to help them establish healthy behaviors.

In the United States, schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors. Each school day, the nation's schools provide an opportunity for more than 50 million students to learn about the dangers of unhealthy behaviors and practice the skills that promote a healthy lifestyle. Unhealthy behaviors, or risk behaviors, are often established during childhood and persist into adult­hood. However, they are largely preventable.

Results from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that the smoking rate among high school students has dropped to the lowest recorded level since the student survey began in 1991. By lowering the rate to 15.7%, the United States has for the first time met its national Healthy People 2020 objective of reducing adolescent cigarette use to 16% or less.

Significant progress also has been made in reducing physical fighting among adolescents. Since 1991, the percentage of high school students who had been in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months decreased from 42% to 25%. Fights on school property have been cut in half during the past 20 years, with 16% of high school students having been in a fight on school property in 1993, compared to 8% in 2013.

Teenage boy texting and drivingFor the first time, information is available from states and large urban school districts that conducted the YRBS regarding texting and e-mailing by adolescents while driving. Survey findings indicate that the use of technology while driving continues to put youth at risk. Among high school students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days, the percentage of who texted or e-mailed while driving during the past 30 days ranged from 32% to 61% across 37 states, and from 19% to 43% across 15 large urban school districts. Nationwide, 41% of students (who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days) texted or e-mailed while driving a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days.

The new YRBS report shows mixed results regarding youth sexual risk behaviors. The percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active (had sexual intercourse during the past 3 months) has declined from 38% in 1991 to 34% in 2013.

However, among the high school students who are currently sexually active, condom use also has declined from 63% in 2003 to 59% in 2013. This decline follows a period of increased condom use throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Further analysis of the 2013 National YRBS results showed changes in obesity-related behaviors in recent years. During the past 10 years, the percentage of high school students using a computer 3 or more hours per day (for non-school related work) nearly doubled―from 22% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. The percentage of high school students who watch 3 or more hours of TV per day on an average school day decreased from 43% in 1999 to 32% in 2013. There was a significant decline from 2007 to 2013 in the percentage of high school students drinking soda (or pop) 1 or more times per day—from 34% to 27%.

What the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Monitors

The CDC's YRBSS is the only surveillance system designed to monitor a wide range of priority health risk behaviors among representative samples of high school students at the national, state, and local levels.

National, state, and local surveys are conducted every 2 years among high school students throughout the United States. These surveys monitor priority health risk behaviors including unintentional injuries and violence; tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. These surveys also monitor the percentages of students affected by obesity and asthma.

More than 13,000 U.S. high school students participated in the 2013 National YRBS. Parental permission was obtained for students to participate in the survey. Student participation was voluntary, and responses were anonymous. States and cities could modify the questionnaire for their own surveys to meet their needs. The 2013 report includes National YRBS data and data from surveys conducted in 42 states and 21 large urban school districts.

The 2013 YRBS results are now available on the YRBS Web site. Available materials include —

  • The MMWR Surveillance Summary – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, United States, 2013
  • Updates to Youth Online, an interactive data exploration tool
  • Trend fact sheets overall and by race/ethnicity
  • Comparisons of state or local results with national results
  • Public use national data sets and technical documentation
  • Tailored YRBS data widget

To receive timely e-mail updates about YRBSS data and new products, subscribe at www.cdc.gov/yrbss.

Teenage girl hugging teenage boy around neck from behindWhat CDC Is Doing to Help Reduce the Prevalence of Health Risk Behaviors Among Students

CDC works with other federal agencies, national nongovernmental organizations, and state and local departments of education, health, and social services to —

  1. Identify and monitor critical health events, youth behaviors and related school policies and programs.
  2. Summarize and apply research findings to increase the effectiveness of interventions.
  3. Provide funding and assistance to help plan, implement, and evaluate interventions that reduce risk behaviors and promote healthy practices.
  4. Monitor the progress made toward achieving national health objectives.

However, there is no simple solution. We all have a role to play in ensuring the health of our nation's youth. Families, schools, community organizations, and youth themselves must work together to help address these health risk behaviors.

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