Youth risk behavior surveillance--United States, 1999

MMWR CDC Surveill Summ. 2000 Jun 9;49(5):1-32.


Problem/condition: Priority health-risk behaviors, which contribute to the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among youth and adults, often are established during youth, extend into adulthood, are interrelated, and are preventable.

Reporting period: February-May 1999.

Description of the system: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults --behaviors that contribute to unintentional and intentional injuries; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (including human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] infection); unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity. The YRBSS includes a national school-based survey conducted by CDC as well as state, territorial, and local school-based surveys conducted by education and health agencies. This report summarizes results from the national survey, 33 state surveys, and 16 local surveys conducted among high school students during February-May 1999.

Results and interpretation: In the United States, approximately three fourths of all deaths among persons aged 10-24 years result from only four causes: motor-vehicle crashes, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. Results from the 1999 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey demonstrate that numerous high school students engage in behaviors that increase their likelihood of death from these four causes--16.4% had rarely or never worn a seat belt; during the 30 days preceding the survey, 33.1% had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 17.3% had carried a weapon during the 30 days preceding the survey; 50.0% had drunk alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey; 26.7% had used marijuana during the 30 days preceding the survey; and 7.8% had attempted suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey. Substantial morbidity and social problems among young persons also result from unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV infection. In 1999, nationwide, 49.9% of high school students had ever had sexual intercourse; 42.0% of sexually active students had not used a condom at last sexual intercourse; and 1.8% had ever injected an illegal drug. Two thirds of all deaths among persons aged > or = 25 years result from only two causes--cardiovascular disease and cancer. The majority of risk behaviors associated with these two causes of death are initiated during adolescence. In 1999, 34.8% of high school students had smoked cigarettes during the 30 days preceding the survey; 76.1% had not eaten > or = 5 servings/day of fruits and vegetables during the 7 days preceding the survey; 16.0% were at risk for becoming overweight; and 70.9% did not attend physical education class daily.

Actions taken: These YRBSS data are already being used by health and education officials at national, state, and local levelsto analyze and improve policies and programs to reduce priority health-risk behaviors among youth. The YRBSS data also are being used to measure progress toward achieving 16 national health objectives for 2010 and 3 of the 10 leading health indicators.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / trends
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System*
  • Diet / trends
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate / trends
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / trends
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Violence / trends
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology