At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Used to monitor progress toward achieving national health objectives for youth.
  • Includes national, state, territorial, local, and tribal government surveys of students in grades 9-12.
  • Monitors behaviors related to obesity, such as diet, physical activity, and weight control.



To collect data about priority health risk behaviors among students in grades 9-12 in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Students in grades 9-12. Some states and jurisdictions also survey middle school students.


Began in 1991. Conducted biennially since then. Most recent year of data available: 2015.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Note(s)

YRBSS has data files at both the national and state/jurisdiction level. The national data file is not the aggregate of the state files. The national data come from a separate national sample and survey. Results are not available from every state because some states do not participate in the YRBSS and some states that do participate do not achieve a high enough overall response rate to receive weighted results. Learn more.

To address the need for nationally representative data on behaviors and behavioral correlates of both healthy eating and physical activity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS) in 2010. The NYPANS was a one-time study that employed the same sampling design as the YRBSS, but was only conducted at the national level. Additional information about this study can be found here.


Sample Design

Cross-sectional survey.

For national data: three-stage cluster sample design used to produce a nationally representative sample of students with oversampling of African American and Hispanic students.

For state and other data: two-stage cluster sample design used to produce representative data at the jurisdiction level.

Learn more.

Sample Size

The national survey sample size is usually around 16,000 students. State and local sample sizes range from 1,000 to 14,000.

Special Note(s)

All students in selected classes are eligible to participate. Schools, classes, and students that refused to participate are not replaced.

Information is available on the history of participation and data quality, including whether or not response rates were at least 60%, for specific states, territories, and districts from 1991 through 2015.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Age and school gradeInterview/questionnaire
Sexual identity and sex of sexual contactsInterview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Frequency of consumption of selected foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, soda, milk)Dietary screener
Frequency (number of days) of eating breakfastInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Frequency (number of days) of physical activity for 60 or more minutes per dayInterview/questionnaire
Frequency (number of days) of physical educationInterview/questionnaire
Frequency (number of days) of strength trainingInterview/questionnaire
Hours spent playing video or computer games or using a computer for something that is not school work on a school dayInterview/questionnaire
Hours spent watching television on a school dayInterview/questionnaire
Participation in sports teams during the past year (number of teams)Interview/questionnaire


NameMethods of Assessment
Attempts to gain, lose, or maintain weightInterview/questionnaire
HeightSelf report
Perceived relative weight status (e.g., underweight, overweight, about right)Interview/questionnaire
Weight Self report

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Obtain national data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)/Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). State and local sites vary in their policies on obtaining data. Learn more.


National data are free of charge. Most state and local data are free of charge. Some state or local agencies charge a small fee for their data.

Special Note(s)

State and local data files and documentation are owned and controlled by the jurisdictions that conducted the survey. Many states and districts have given CDC permission to distribute their data files upon request. Other states and districts manage the distribution of their data files themselves. Learn more.

The most recent year for which data are available is not necessarily the most recent year the survey was conducted.

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and the Navajo Nation also conduct the YRBS periodically. These data are owned by the BIE and the Navajo Nation. For information about accessing these data, contact BIE Teresia Paul,


Geocode Variable(s)

None noted.

Existing Linkages

None noted.

Selected Publications

For a list of related journal articles, please see the current list of YRBS Journal Articles.


Lowry R, Lee SM, Fulton JE, Kann L. Healthy people 2010 objectives for physical activity, physical education, and television viewing among adolescents: national trends from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 1999-2007. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2009;6(Suppl 1):S36-S45.

Lowry R, Wechsler H, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Kann L. Television viewing and its associations with overweight, sedentary lifestyle, and insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables among U.S. high school students: Differences by race, ethnicity, and gender. Journal of School Health 2002;72(10):413-421.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity fact sheets. Fact sheets provide national, state-level, and large urban district data on obesity rates and related variables derived by combining YRBS data with data from other sources.


Miller GF, Sliwa S, Brener ND, Park S, Merlo C. School District Policies and Adolescents’ Soda Consumption. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2016;59(1):17-23.

Moore LV, Thompson FE, Demissie Z. Percentage of Youth Meeting Federal Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, United States and 33 States, 2013. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2016;117(4):545-553.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in Beverage Consumption Among High School Students — United States, 2007–2015. MMWR 2017;66(4):112–6.

Physical Activity-Related

Demissie Z, Lowry R, Eaton DK, Hertz MF, Lee SM. Associations of School Violence With Physical Activity Among U.S. High School Students. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2014; 11:705-711.

Lowry R, Lee SM, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Barrios LC, and Kann L. Physical activity-related injury and body mass index among U.S. high school students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2007;4(3):325-342.

Lowry R, Wechsler H, Kann L, Collins JL. Recent trends in participation in physical education among U.S. high school students. Journal of School Health 2001;71(4):145-152.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participation in high school physical education—United States, 1991-2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2004;53(36):844-847.


Brener ND, Eaton DK, Lowry R, McManus T. The association between weight perception and BMI among high school students. Obesity Research 2004;12(11):1866-1874.

Brener ND, McManus T, Galuska DA, Lowry R, Wechsler H. Reliability and validity of self-reported height and weight among high school students. Journal of Adolescent Health 2003;32(4):281-287.

Demissie Z, Lowry R, Eaton DK, Nihiser AJ. Trends in weight management goals and behaviors among high school students—United States, 1999–2009. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2015; 19(1):74-83.

Lowry R, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Wechsler H, Kann L. Weight management goals and practices among U.S. high school students: Associations with physical activity, diet, and smoking. Journal of Adolescent Health 2002;31(2):133-144.