What is Youth At-Risk Behavior?

2013 CDC At-Risk Behavior Survey Overview

It's normal for teens to think they know everything sometimes.
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At-risk behavior is any behavior that puts youth at risk for negative consequences, like future poor health, injury or death.

Tracking At-Risk Behaviors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks certain youth at-risk behaviors that they have deemed important and observable in their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), which gives a report every two years. They assess six categories of priority health risk behaviors:

  • behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence;
  • tobacco use, including when tobacco was first used, how many cigarettes are smoked per day, 
  • alcohol and other drug use;
  • sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV infection;
  • unhealthy dietary behaviors;
  • physical inactivity, including overweight and asthma

These behaviors are measured using national and local surveys done through the CDC, schools, states, territories, education and health agencies and tribal governments. The most current data as of now is from 2013, though data from 2015 will be published during the summer of 2016. 

Teen Behaviors That Contribute to Unintentional Injuries and Violence

The 2013 YRBSS report showed these statistics about behaviors contributing to injuries and violence:

  • 41.4% of teens had emailed or texted at least once while driving.
  • 10% of teens who had been drinking drove at least once.
  • 22% of teens had ridden with someone who had been drinking at least once.
  • 18% of teens had carried a weapon for at least one day during the prior 30 days.
  • 25% had been in a physical fight at least once in the prior 12 months.

Tobacco Use in Teens

The 2013 YRBSS report showed these statistics about tobacco use:

  • 41% of teens had tried a cigarette.
  • 4% smoked cigarettes every day.
  • 22% of teens reported current tobacco use.

Alcohol and Drug Use in Teens

The 2013 YRBSS report showed these statistics with regard to alcohol and drug use:

  • 66% of teens had had at least one drink of alcohol in their lives.
  • 19% had more than a few sips of alcohol before the age of 13.
  • 35% had had at least one drink in the 30 days prior to the survey.
  • 21% had had five or more drinks in a row.
  • 41% had used marijuana at least once in their lives.
  • 23% had used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days.

Sexual Behaviors in Teens

The 2013 YRBSS report showed these statistics with regard to sexual behavior:

  • 47% of teens had had sexual intercourse in their lives.
  • 6% of teens had sex before they were 13.
  • 15% of teens had sex with four or more people.
  • 34% of teens had had sex with at least one person in the three months prior to the survey.
  • 34% of the sexually active teenagers reported using condoms.
  • 14% said they had not used any birth control methods.

    Dietary Behaviors in Teens

    The dietary behaviors of teens in the 2013 YRBSS report showed:

    • 7% had not eaten vegetables in the week prior to the survey.
    • 5% had not eaten fruit or drank 100% fruit juice in the week prior to the survey.
    • 19% had not drunk milk during the week prior to the survey.
    • 22% had not drunk soda during the week prior to the survey.
    • 27% had drunk soda at least once a day for the past week.

    Physical Activity in Teens

    Physical activity of teens in the 2013 YRBSS report showed:

    • 47% were physically active for 60 minutes per day on five or more days.
    • 27% were physically active for 60 minutes per day on all seven days.
    • 41% used a computer for things other than school works for 3 or more hours per day.
    • 33% watched television for three or more hours per day.

    These survey results can help parents be proactive in talking to teens about risky behaviors, family values and ways to resist peer pressure.

    Sources:

    "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015).

    "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2013." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014)

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