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Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System


The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health risk behaviors among students in grades 9-12 that contribute to morbidity and mortality in both adolescence and adulthood.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Data Years Available: 
1990; biennially since 1991
Mode of Collection: 
School-based questionnaires administered in classrooms.
Selected Content: 
Data are collected on tobacco use, dietary behaviors, physical activity, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy, STDs, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injury and violence.
Population Covered: 
High school students in public and private schools in the U.S.

A three-stage cluster sample design is used to produce a nationally representative sample of students in grades 9-12 attending public and private high schools. The first-stage sampling frame of primary sampling units (PSUs) are stratified based on degree of urbanization and relative percentage of black and Hispanic students in the PSU. The PSUs are selected from these strata with probability proportional to school enrollment size. At the second stage of sampling, schools are selected with probability proportional to school enrollment; schools with substantial numbers of black and Hispanic students are oversampled. At the third stage, one or two intact classes of a required subject from grades 9-12 are chosen at each school. All students in the selected classes are eligible to participate in the survey. Responses are weighted for nonresponse and probability of selection.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

The sample size for the 2007 YRBSS was 14,041 students in 157 schools. The school response rate was 81% and the student response rate was 84%, for an overall response rate of 68%.

Interpretation Issues: 

The extent of underreporting or overreporting of behaviors cannot be determined, although the survey questions demonstrate good test-retest reliability. YRBSS data apply only to adolescents who attend regular high school. These students may not be representative of all persons in this age group because those who have dropped out of high school or attend alternative schools are not surveyed. Estimates of substance abuse for youth based on the YRBSS differ from those produce by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and Monitoring the Future (MTF). Rates are not comparable because of differences in populations covered, sample design, questionnaires, and interview setting.


National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2009: With Special Feature on Medical Technology. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2010; pp 489-490.