Highlights of a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Many Teens Engage in Risk-Taking Behaviors That Can Lead to Chronic Disease, Injury, or Death

For Release July 11, 1995

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that a substantial number of U.S. adolescents and young adults, aged 12-21 years, are engaged in behaviors such as smoking, binge-drinking, and violence that can influence health and longevity, both in the short term and later in life. Data are from the 1992 National Health Interview Survey’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Almost 60 percent of youth have smoked cigarettes, two-thirds have drunk alcohol, and almost a third reported the use of illegal drugs, according to the nationwide survey of a sample of youth reached through household interviews. One in four teenagers had engaged in binge-drinking and an equal number had driven after drinking.

Youth are also engaging in sexual activity that place them at risk for serious health and social consequences. About one-fourth of sexually experienced teenagers had failed to use a reliable method of contraception the last time they had intercourse. About one-half had failed to use a condom, thereby increasing their chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. More than 4 out of 10 youth had more than one sex partner in their lifetime. The survey also covered weight control, physical activity, seat belt and helmet use, violence, and runaway homeless experiences.

Among other findings:

  • About one in six teenagers had stayed out overnight without permission within the past year; about one in seven teenagers had stayed overnight at an at-risk location, such as a bus station, car, or a stranger’s home.
  • Only a small percent (1.8) of youth consistently used helmets when bike riding, and just over a third wore seat belts as a passenger in a car.
  • About one-third of all youth considered themselves to be at least slightly overweight, with girls almost twice as likely as boys to view themselves as overweight. The vast majority were trying to lose or maintain their weight by exercise and about half were dieting. Only a small percent were using diet pills (3.4) or vomiting (3.9) to lose weight.

For more information about Vital and Health Statistics series 10, no. 192 “Health-Risk Behaviors Among Our Nation’s Youth: United States, 1992,” please contact NCHS, Office of Public Affairs (301) 458-4800, or via e-mail at paoquery@nch10a.em.cdc.gov.

No. 192. Health-Risk Behaviors Among Our Nation’s Youth: United States, 1992. 51 pp. (PHS) 95-1520. GPO stock number 017-022-01307-0 price $4.50 pdf icon[PDF – 445 KB]


Page last reviewed: June 12, 2009