YRBS Data Summary & Trends
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?
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.
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.
- Risky sexual behaviors are decreasing, but so are important protective behaviors like condom use, HIV testing, and STD testing.
- Substance use is generally decreasing, but still too high.
- Experiences of violence, including sexual violence, are not declining and in some cases are increasing.
- Poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors are increasing for nearly all groups of youth.
- 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.
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
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.