CDC releases the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021

February 13, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

Today, CDC released the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021, which provides key 2021 and trend data on health behaviors and experiences among high school students in the United States. These data offer an important snapshot of adolescent health and well-being related to sexual behavior, substance use, experiences of violence, mental health, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This year’s report also includes data on students’ experiences of unstable housing, school connectedness, and parental monitoring to build on our understanding of young people’s environments and opportunities to improve them.

The data tell a distressing story about the health and well-being of our nation’s young people. Findings are especially stark among some groups of students.

Female students, for instance, experienced more violence, mental health challenges, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and substance use than their male peers. The disparities and the rates at which female students experienced such trauma and harm are substantial. In 2021:

  • The percentage of female students who had ever experienced forced sex increased for the first time in 10 years, with 14% of female students having this experience.
  • Female students were nearly twice as likely to experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide during the past year compared to their male peers; with nearly 6 in 10 feeling persistently sad or hopeless and more than 1 in 10 attempting suicide.

As we have seen in previous data, LGBQ+ students, defined in this report as those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, or another non-heterosexual identity, continue to experience more violence and mental distress than their heterosexual peers. In 2021:

  • More than 1 in 10 LGBQ+ students did not go to school because of safety concerns; nearly 1 in 4 experienced sexual violence, and nearly 1 in 4 were bullied at school during the past year.
  • LGBQ+ students were nearly 4 times as likely as their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide during the past year, with more than 2 in 10 reporting this experience.

To continue to address health disparities and promote equity, this year’s report expands the racial and ethnic groups for which 2021 data and trends are presented. When presented by race and ethnicity, data show that in 2021:

  • A large and increasing percentage of students from each group felt persistently sad or hopeless.
  • Attempted suicide was higher among Black students than students from other groups and increased among Black and White students from 2011 to 2021.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native students were more likely than students from nearly all other groups to have ever been forced to have sex, with nearly 2 in 10 having this experience.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native and Black students were more likely than Asian, Hispanic, and White students to experience unstable housing.

These data and more presented in the Data Summary and Trends Report make it clear that young people are experiencing a level of trauma and distress that requires immediate action. While the behaviors and experiences highlighted in this report tell a distressing story, partnering with schools to foster wide-reaching protective factors can improve the lives of adolescents.

Schools play a critical role in shaping mental, physical, and social growth. CDC’s What Works in Schools program supports schools by assisting with the implementation of quality health education, connecting them to needed services, and making school environments safer and more supportive, with a strong focus on improving school connectedness.

This report highlights the need for these and other proven school-based strategies that promote adolescents’ health and well-being so that the trauma and harm our young people feel become less common experiences, and all youth have the opportunity to thrive.


/Kathleen Ethier/

Kathleen Ethier, PhD
Division of Adolescent and School Health
National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


/Jonathan Mermin/

Jonathan H. Mermin, MD, MPH
RADM and Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS
National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Stay connected: @DrMerminCDC and Connections

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