YRBS Data Summary & Trends

YRBS-DSTR 2011-2021 banner

CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021 [PDF – 10 MB] provides surveillance data from 2021, as well as 10-year trends from 2011 through 2021, on behaviors and experiences among high school students in the United States related to health and well-being.

What is included in the YRBS Data Summary & Trends Report?

YRBS-DSTR 2021 Graphic

The YRBS Data Summary & Trends Report includes data on behaviors and experiences for 29 variables across

  • sexual behavior,
  • substance use,
  • experiences of violence,
  • mental health, and
  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Additionally, this year’s report includes data on social determinants of health, such as unstable housing, and protective factors, such as school connectedness and parental monitoring.

Why are these data important?

The 2021 data are the first national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data collected since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

mental health

The data show that many of the same behaviors and experiences that were moving in the wrong direction before the pandemic, like poor mental health, continued to worsen, and highlight the challenges young people continue to face.

What are some of the findings of the report?

Overall, young people are experiencing a level of trauma and distress that requires action.

Although the data show a few behaviors and experiences moving in the right direction, the increases in harmful experiences among adolescents are striking.
  • condoms icon
    Risky sexual behaviors are decreasing, but so are important protective behaviors like condom use, HIV testing, and STD testing.
  • Substance abuse icon
    Substance use is generally decreasing, but still too high.
  • no violence icon
    Experiences of violence, including sexual violence, are not declining and in some cases are increasing.
  • mental health icon
    Poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors are increasing for nearly all groups of youth.
There are also differences among groups of students.
  • Female students and LGBQ+1 students are experiencing alarming rates of violence, poor mental health, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • The rates of experiencing bullying, sexual violence, poor mental health, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors indicate a need for urgent intervention.
  • Some differences between students across racial and ethnic groups have lessened, but there are still concerning disparities.

1 Because the 2021 national YRBS did not have a question assessing gender identity, this report does not highlight data specifically on students who identify as transgender.

a group of LGBTQ students

What can be done ?

Data show that school environments, which are influenced by how teachers manage classrooms, programs to support positive youth development, and policies and practices that support LGBTQ+ students, can have a strong and lifelong effect on areas where youth are struggling now, including mental health.

What Works In Schools

Teacher talking to high school students

CDC’s program What Works In Schools is an evidence-based, primary prevention approach that supports local school districts in improving health education, connecting young people to the services they need, and making school environments safer and more supportive.

Schools that have participated in What Works In Schools saw improvements in sexual behaviors and decreases in the proportion of students who use marijuana, who miss school because of safety concerns, and who experience forced sex.

Safe and supportive environments foster school connectedness. Youth who feel connected to adults who care at school are less likely to experience negative health outcomes.

The positive impact of CDC’s What Works In Schools program is especially important considering the increases from 2011 to 2021 in the percentage of students who missed school due to safety concerns and the percentage of female students who have ever experienced forced sex.