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Embargoed for Release
Thursday, June 27, 2002, 2 p.m. ET

Contact: CDC, National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention
& Health Promotion
(770) 4885131
CDC, Division of Media Relations
(404) 6393286

Fact Sheet

Youth Risk Behaviors Surveillance Survey

Compared to the early '90s, high-school students are practicing fewer unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco use, marijuana use, risky sexual behaviors, and other potentially dangerous behaviors that increase their risk for injury, illness, and death. However, too many high school students continue to practice behaviors that place them at risk for serious injury, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, and chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer according to data released today from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The YRBSS is the most comprehensive source of data on the health risk behaviors of high school students. Today's report contains information about high school students nationwide, in 34 states, and in 18 large cities.

Among high school students nationwide:

Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence

  • 14% rarely or never wore a seat belt when riding in a car.
  • 85% of students who had ridden a bicycle during the 12 months preceding the survey rarely or never wore a helmet.
  • 31% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 17% carried a weapon during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 33% were in a physical fight during the 12 months preceding the survey.
  • 9% attempted suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey.

Tobacco use

  • 29% smoked cigarettes during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 14% smoked cigarettes on 20 or more days during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 8% used smokeless tobacco during the 30 days preceding the survey.

Alcohol and other drug use

  • 47% had at least one drink of alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 30% had 5 or more drinks of alcohol on at least one occasion during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 24% used marijuana during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 4% used cocaine during the 30 days preceding the survey.
  • 15% used inhalants during their lifetime.
  • 10% used methamphetamines during their lifetime.

Sexual behaviors

  • 46% had sexual intercourse during their lifetime.
  • 14% had sexual intercourse with 4 or more partners during their lifetime.
  • 33% had sexual intercourse during the 3 months preceding the survey.
  • 58% of currently sexually active students used a condom during last sexual intercourse.
  • 18% of currently sexually active students used birth control pills before last sexual intercourse.

Dietary behaviors

  • 11% were overweight (at or above the 95th percentile for body mass index by age and sex).
  • 14% were at risk for becoming overweight (at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for body mass index by age and sex).
  • 79% did not eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables during the 7 days preceding the survey.
  • 5% took laxatives or vomited to lose weight during the 30 days preceding the survey.

Physical activity

  • 35% did not participate in sufficient vigorous physical activity for at least 20 minutes on 3 or more of the 7 days preceding the survey.
  • 48% were not enrolled in physical education class.
  • 68% did not attend physical education class daily.

Injury- and violence-related behaviors that decreased between 1991-2001 include the percentage of students who never or rarely wore seatbelts (from 26 percent to 14 percent); rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (from 40 percent to 31 percent); seriously considered suicide (from 29 percent to 19 percent); and planned a suicide attempt (from 19 percent to 15 percent). In addition, the percentage of students who carried a weapon decreased from 1991-1997 (from 26 percent to 18 percent) and then remained constant from 1997-2001 (18 percent to 17 percent).

The percentage of students who reported current and frequent cigarette use increased from 1991-1997 (from 28 percent to 36 percent for current use and from 13 percent to 17 percent for frequent use) and then decreased by 2001 (to 29 percent for current use and to 14 percent for frequent use. Similarly, the percentage of students who reported lifetime and current marijuana use increased from 1991-1997 (from 31 percent to 47 percent for lifetime use and from 15 percent to 26 percent, for current use) and then decreased by 2001 (to 42 percent for lifetime use and 24 percent for current use). However, lifetime and current cocaine use increased from 1991-2001 (from 6 percent to 9 percent for lifetime use, and from 2 percent to 4 percent for current use).

From 1991-2002, the percentage of students who ever had sexual intercourse decreased from 54 to 46 percent, and the percentage who had four or more sexual partners decreased from 19 percent to 14 percent. Simultaneously, the percentage of sexually active students who used a condom at last sexual intercourse increased from 1991-1999 (from 46 percent to 58 percent) and then leveled by 2001 (to 58 percent).

While the percentage of students enrolled in physical education (PE) class remained constant from 1991-2001 (49 percent to 52 percent), the percentage of students enrolled in daily PE classes decreased from 1991-1995 (from 42 percent to 25 percent) and then increased from 1995-2001 (from 25 percent to 32 percent), but still remained far below the 1991 level.

Considerable variation in the prevalence of risk behaviors occurs from state to state. The following ten behaviors had a five-fold or greater variation among the states:

Behaviors that contribute to unintentional and intentional injuries

  • Felt too unsafe to go to school - 3.0% to 16.9%
  • Tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use
  • Smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day - 1.0% to 7.3%
  • Current smokeless tobacco use - 2.9% to 18.1%
  • Current cigar use - 4.1% to 19.3%
  • Purchased cigarettes at a store or gas station - 4.4% to 39.1%
  • Lifetime injection-drug use - 1.1% to 6.9%
  • Cigarette use on school property - 2.7% to 16.0%
  • Smokeless tobacco use on school property - 0.9% to 11.5%

Sexual behaviors

  • Initiated sexual intercourse before 13 years of age - 3.1% to 14.0%

Physical activity

  • Attended physical education class daily - 3.6% to 70.6%

The YRBS, which began in 1991 and has been conducted biennially since, includes questions on a wide variety of health-related risk behaviors. YRBSS findings are available at http://www.cdc.gov/yrbss.


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