June 4, 2010
This is a study abstract. The full study appears in the June 4, 2010 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Problem: Priority health-risk behaviors, which are behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among youth and adults, often are established during childhood and adolescence, extend into adulthood, and are interrelated and preventable.
Reporting Period Covered: September 2008 - December 2009.
Description of the System: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults: 1) behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; 2) tobacco use; 3) alcohol and other drug use; 4) sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; 5) unhealthy dietary behaviors; and 6) physical inactivity. In addition, YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma. YRBSS includes a national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by CDC and state and local school-based YRBSs conducted by state and local education and health agencies. This report summarizes results from the 2009 national survey, 42 state surveys, and 20 local surveys conducted among students in grades 9-12.
Results: Results from the 2009 national YRBS indicated that many high school students are engaged in behaviors that increase their likelihood for the leading causes of death among persons aged 10-24 years in the United States. Among high school students nationwide, 9.7% rarely or never wore a seat belt when riding in a car driven by someone else. During the 30 days before the survey, 28.3% of high school students rode in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol, 17.5% had carried a weapon, 41.8% had drunk alcohol, and 20.8% had used marijuana. During the 12 months before the survey, 31.5% of high school students had been in a physical fight and 6.3% had attempted suicide. Substantial morbidity and social problems among youth also result from unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV infection. Among high school students nationwide, 34.2% were currently sexually active, 38.9% of currently sexually active students had not used a condom during their last sexual intercourse, and 2.1% of students had ever injected an illegal drug. Results from the 2009 YRBS also indicated that many high school students are engaged in behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among adults aged ≥25 years in the United States. During 2009, 19.5% of high school students smoked cigarettes during the 30 days before the survey. During the 7 days before the survey, 77.7% of high school students had not eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day, 29.2% had drunk soda or pop at least one time per day, and 81.6% were not physically active for at least 60 minutes per day on all 7 days. One-third of high school students attended physical education classes daily, and 12.0% were obese.
Interpretation: Since 1991, the prevalence of many health-risk behaviors among high school students nationwide has decreased. However, many high school students continue to engage in behaviors that place them at risk for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. The prevalence of most risk behaviors does not vary substantially among cities and states.
Public Health Action: YRBS data are used to measure progress toward achieving 15 national health objectives for Healthy People 2010 and three of the 10 leading health indicators, to assess trends in priority health-risk behaviors among high school students, and to evaluate the impact of broad school and community interventions at the national, state, and local levels. More effective school health programs and other policy and programmatic interventions are needed to reduce risk and improve health outcomes among youth.