Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance in the United States
Health risk behaviors practiced during adolescence often persist into adulthood and contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Youth health behavior data at the national, state, territorial, tribal, and local levels help monitor the effectiveness of public health interventions designed to promote adolescent health. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) is the largest public health surveillance system in the United States, monitoring a broad range of health-related behaviors among high school students.
Some key injury and violence findings among U.S. high school students from the report:
- Interpersonal violence victimization: Dating violence, sexual violence, and bullying are all adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and are serious public health problems. Among US high school students, 1 in 8 experience dating violence, 1 in 9 experience sexual violence, and 1 in 4 experience bullying.
- Suicidal ideation and behaviors: Many adolescents experience suicidal ideation, make suicide plans, and attempt suicide. In 2019, approximately 1 in 5 youth seriously considered attempting suicide; 1 in 6 made a suicide plan; 1 in 11 made a suicide attempt; and 1 in 40 made a suicide attempt requiring medical treatment.
- Transportation risk behaviors: Motor vehicle crash injuries are a leading cause of death and nonfatal injury among adolescents. In 2019, 43.1% of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seat belt as a passenger, and 16.7% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days. Students engaging in one transportation risk behavior were more likely to engage in other transportation risk behaviors.
- Prescription opioid misuse and use of alcohol and other substances: Though declining, substance use among high school students remains common — with approximately 1 in 3 students reporting current alcohol use, 1 in 5 reporting current marijuana use, and 1 in 7 reporting current binge drinking.
- Trends in violence victimization and suicide risk by sexual identity: LGB students experienced more violence victimization and reported more suicide risk behaviors than their heterosexual peers.
These findings provide an important snapshot of the health of American youth. How well we monitor and address these behaviors now will greatly impact the overall picture of the health for our nation’s youth in the future.