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CDC Releases Youth Risk Behaviors Survey Results

Graphic: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report - 2015 ResultsCDC releases new data on health risk behaviors among high school students. Learn more about working with teens 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 50 million students to learn about the dangers of unhealthy behaviors and practice 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.

YRBS Results

New results from the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that while the prevalence of cigarette smoking among high school students dropped to the lowest levels since the survey began in 1991, the use of e-cigarettes among students is posing new challenges.

Although the prevalence of current cigarette use decreased significantly from 28% percent in 1991 to 11% in 2015, new data from the 2015 survey found that 24% of high school students reported using e-cigarettes during the past 30 days.

Significant progress 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 23%. However, nationwide, the percentage of students who had not gone to school because of safety concerns is still too high, with 6% of students missing at least 1 day of school during the past month because they felt they would be unsafe.

Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors.

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 teens who texted or e-mailed while driving ranged from 26% to 63% across 35 states, and from 14% to 39% across 18 large urban school districts. Nationwide, 42% of students who had driven a car or other vehicle during the past 30 days texted or e-mailed.

The new YRBS report shows mixed results regarding youth sexual risk behaviors. While teens are having less sex, condom use among currently sexually active students and HIV testing among all students has declined. The percentage of high school students who are currently sexually active (had sexual intercourse during the past three months) has decreased from 38% in 1991 to 30% in 2015. There is also a significant decrease from 2013 (34%). However, among high school students who are currently sexually active, condom use has declined from 63% in 2003 to 57 percent in 2015. This decline follows a period of increased condom use throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Further analysis of the 2015 National YRBS results showed changes in obesity and sedentary related behaviors in recent 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 42% in 2015. There was a significant decline from 2013 to 2015 in the percentage of high school students drinking soda 1 or more times per day—from 27% to 20%.

What the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Monitors

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 related 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.

The percentage of high school students using a computer 3 or more hours per day nearly doubled―from 22% in 2003 to 42% in 2015.

More than 15,000 U.S. high school students participated in the 2015 National YRBS. The 2015 report includes National YRBS data and data from surveys conducted in 37 states and 19 large urban school districts.

The 2015 YRBS results are now available on the YRBS Website. Available materials include —

  • The MMWR Surveillance Summary – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, United States, 2015
  • Updates to Youth Online, an interactive data exploration tool
  • Comparisons of state or local results with national results
  • Public use national data sets and technical documentation

To receive timely e-mail updates about YRBSS data and new products, subscribe at the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) website.

What 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.

We all have a role to play in ensuring the health of our nation's youth. Families, schools, community organizations, and teens must work together to help address these health risk behaviors.

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