CDC Releases Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results and Trends Report

High school students leaning against hall lockers

CDC supports adolescent and school health efforts using state-of-the-art surveillance systems designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on youth risk behaviors and school health policies and practices.

CDC is committed to protecting and improving the health and quality of life of adolescents. Our nation’s education agencies and schools are significant partners in the effort to not only protect the health of adolescents, but to also help educate them on how to live a healthy life now and as they grow into adulthood.

Information is gathered on youth health risk behaviors and school health policies and practices to help public health and education professionals identify national, state, and local youth health risk behaviors and develop school health programs, policies, and practices. This type of information is of interest to a variety of audiences including school board members, school administrators, teachers, parents, legislators, and community health organizations and can be used to focus efforts on improving the health of youth, tracking progress over time, and assessing program effectiveness.

The data CDC collects are vital to knowing the trends and changes in youth health risk behaviors, and determining the extent to which school policies and practices can help improve the health of youth. Timely and ongoing data collection, analysis, and dissemination help CDC meet the information needs of public health and education professionals and support efforts for continual program improvement. Some of the uses for the data collected include

  • Helping states and districts determine funding priorities;
  • Helping parents, school board members and administrators, teachers, and other community members determine how local school health policies and programs compare to those nationwide;
  • Determining how well school health policies and programs address important public health issues and priority health risk behaviors among students; and
  • Helping to understand and evaluate whether schools are implementing policies and practices effectively.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017 Results
Information on school health policies is gathered to help public health and education professionals identify risk behaviors and develop school health programs.

CDC’s Monitoring Systems Support School-based Health Efforts

Identification of trends in youth health risk behaviors and in school health policies and practices are part of the strategies CDC uses to achieve its mission to improve the health and quality of life of adolescents. CDC manages state-of-the-art surveillance systems that collect, analyze, and disseminate these critical data. These systems are the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) and School Health Profiles (Profiles).

The  Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)  is the only surveillance system in the United States 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 The YRBSS was designed to

  • Determine the prevalence of health behaviors;
  • Assess whether health behaviors increase, decrease, or stay the same over time;
  • Examine the co-occurrence of health behaviors;
  • Provide comparable national, state, territorial, tribal, and local data;
  • Provide comparable data among subpopulations of youth; and
  • Monitor progress toward achieving the  Healthy Peopleexternal icon  objectives and other program indicators.

Since 1991, a representative sample of students at the national, state, and local levels complete the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) every other year. The YRBS results help in understanding the factors that contribute to the leading causes of illness, death and disability among youth and young adults. Approximately 15,000 U.S. high school students participated in the  2017 YRBS. The latest report was released in June 2018 and included 2017 national YRBS data and data from surveys conducted in 39 states and 21 large urban school districts.

The 2017 YRBS also highlights health disparities that exist among students based on sex, race/ethnicity, and sexual identity. For the second time, the 2017 YRBS provided national data on sexual minority youth (SMY). This includes students who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual; are not sure of their sexual identity; or who report sexual contact with persons of the same sex. These new data offer insight into the health risks of approximately 2.6 million sexual minority high school students.

In 2017 CDC also released the first YRBS Data Summary and Trends Report. pdf icon[16.7 MB] This report uses YRBS data to focus on four priority areas closely linked to HIV and STD risk including sexual behavior, high-risk substance use, violence victimization, and mental health over the past decade. Risk behaviors co-occur, and many students experience multiple risks across the four focus areas.

The  School Health Profiles (Profiles)  is the only surveillance system in the United States that provides representative state and local data on school health practices and policies. Profiles provides representative data on school health practices and policies through a system of surveys that assess school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts and territories. Since 1994, Profiles has been conducted every 2 years by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers to learn about the status of

  • School health education requirements and content;
  • Physical education and physical activity;
  • Practices related to bullying and sexual harassment;
  • School health policies related to tobacco-use prevention and nutrition;
  • School-based health services;
  • Family engagement and community involvement; and
  • School health coordination.
  • The 2016 Profiles reports and maps are available on the  Profiles results  page.

How Survey Data are Used to Improve Adolescent and School Health

These surveillance systems help provide data to inform the work and evaluate the progress of CDC and others in meeting national goals and objectives designed to protect and improve the health of adolescents.

Many of the strategies implemented by schools are focused on building self-esteem and respect, educating about health risk behaviors, and providing tools to help make healthy decisions, such as protecting oneself against HIV and STDs, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and reducing teen pregnancy.

CDC and other federal agencies routinely use the survey data to assess trends in priority health risk behaviors among high school students, monitor progress toward achieving national health objectives, and evaluate the contribution of broad-based prevention efforts in schools toward helping the nation reduce health risk behaviors among youth.

Page last reviewed: January 28, 2019
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