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OSSE Releases Results of 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Media Contact: Fred Lewis (202) 412-2167, [email protected]

Results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) released today by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) show some positive trends related to tobacco and alcohol use as well as the consumption of sugary drinks among DC youth. Survey results also highlight areas of concern related to condom use and mental health that must be addressed to ensure DC students are reaching their maximum academic potential and living healthy lives.

“These data are a valuable tool for helping us direct our time, funding, and efforts,” said State Superintendent Hanseul Kang. “We hope that the results are helpful to educators, schools, and health care providers as we all seek to better support the health and wellness needs of our students.”

The biennial YRBS evaluated a representative sample from 8,578 high school students at 34 DC public and public charter high schools and 8,799 middle school students at 57 DC public and public charter middle schools in spring 2017. YRBS data are compared to results from 2007, 2012 and 2015 to show trends over time.

The survey covers the following risk behavior categories, which coincide with the categories of OSSE’s Health Education Standards: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs, Mental and Emotional Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity, Disease Prevention/Sexual Health, and Violence and Safety. The report notes significant differences within subgroups of the DC youth population (e.g., sex, grade, race/ethnicity) for various health behaviors and describes behaviors that have undergone significant changes since the YRBS was first administered.

Overall, alcohol and illegal drug use is down overall from 10 years ago in DC, although certain groups of DC youth appear to be more at risk, with marijuana use among high school students up significantly (33 percent reporting using marijuana over the past 30 days in 2017 as opposed to 20.5 percent in 2007). The consumption of sugary drinks among high school students is down significantly, seven years after the passage of the Healthy Schools Act of 2010, with 16.6 percent reporting drinking one or more non-diet soda in the seven days before the survey (as opposed to 29.7 percent in 2007). Among sexually active students at the high school level, condom use is down, with 61.2 percent reporting using a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse (as opposed to 69.9 percent in 2007 and 66.6 percent in 2015). The percentage of high school students who were ever tested for HIV in 2017 (29.9 percent) also decreased significantly from 2012, the first time that question was included on the survey (42.4 percent).  

Results also indicate continued troubling trends among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students as well as female Latinas in several categories. While LGB youth made up 8.9 percent of the District middle school population and 15.1 percent of the District high school population, they were disproportionately represented in youth who used alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. LGB high school students were two to three times more likely to feel sad or hopeless and to think seriously about, plan, and attempt to kill themselves. One out of 10 lesbian, gay, or bisexual high school students had to be treated by a doctor or nurse as a result of an attempted suicide. Latina females at the middle school level attempted suicide (20.4 percent) at more than four times the rate of white female students (4.7 percent).

Next Steps
OSSE will use the data collected through the YRBS to target trainings for all District teachers and principals at public and public charter schools and licensed personnel at child development facilities on how to identify and refer students with behavioral health needs. Data also will be used for public awareness campaigns and training parents, family members, teachers, school personnel and peers on how to assist youth facing mental health challenges or crises. OSSE is strategically partnering with various agencies and organizations to address the issues reflected in the report.

Read the full 2017 DC YRBS report as well as reports from past years on OSSE’s website.