Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) Overview

What is the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)?

The YRBSS was developed in 1990 to monitor health behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. These behaviors, often established during childhood and early adolescence, include

  • Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.
  • Sexual behaviors related to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection.
  • Alcohol and other drug use.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Unhealthy dietary behaviors.
  • Inadequate physical activity.

In addition, the YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma and other health-related behaviors plus sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts.

info circle solid icon

From 1991 through 2019, the YRBSS has collected data from more than 4.9 million high school students in more than 2,100 separate surveys.

What are the purposes of the YRBSS?

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.
  • Monitor progress toward achieving the Healthy People objectives and other program indicators.

What are the components of the YRBSS?

The YRBSS includes national, state, territorial, tribal government, and local school-based surveys of representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. These surveys are conducted every two years, usually during the spring semester. The national survey, conducted by CDC, provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools in the United States. The state, territorial, tribal government, and local surveys, conducted by departments of health and education, provide data representative of mostly public high school students in each jurisdiction.

The YRBSS also includes additional surveys conducted by CDC:

  • A middle school survey conducted by interested states, territories, tribal governments, and local school districts.
  • A 2010 study to measure physical activity and nutrition-related behaviors and determinants of these behaviors among a nationally representative sample of high school students.
  • A series of methods studies conducted in 1992, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2008 to improve the quality and interpretation of the YRBSS data.
  • The National Alternative High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 1998 among a representative sample of almost 9,000 students in alternative high schools.
  • The National College Health Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 1995 among a representative sample of about 5,000 undergraduate students.