Every two years, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction administers the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to monitor health-risk behaviors of high school students. A representative sample of more than 2,000 Wisconsin high school students took the survey anonymously in 2017. Results show that key risk behaviors such as the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs are down, while depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts are rising.
Students self-report more screen time use, less sleep, and overall poorer health. While a sense of belonging continues to be high among many students, particularly white males, students who identify as female, students of color, students with disabilities, students who identify as LGBT, and students with Ds or Fs report a lower sense of belonging.
For the first time, the YRBS included questions related to anxiety (39.9% self-reporting), abuse of prescription painkillers (11.2% self-reporting), and use of electronic vaping products (11.6% self-reporting). Other health-risk behaviors surveyed include bullying, school safety, sexual and dating violence, sexual behaviors, and traffic safety. The summary report captures an overview of survey questions along with a summary of long-term trends.
Students who report strong levels of family and teacher support are not as likely to engage in other reported risk behaviors. Results from the YRBS can help start conversations with young people and their communities regarding reasons behind the numbers reported and ideas for what can be done.
For districts interested in learning about how to assess their students’ safety and health behaviors at the local level, DPI provides a similar system called the Online Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
For more information on the 2017 YRBS and prior surveys, see the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behaviors Survey website.