Page last updated: March 31, 2016
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System

The YRBSS was developed in 1990 to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. These behaviours, often established during childhood and early adolescence, include alcohol and other drug use.

The 2015 survey found that 63.2% of students had ever drank alcohol. The prevalence was higher among female (65.3%) than male (61.4%) students; higher among black female (57.9%) and Hispanic female (68.6%) than black male (51.0%) and Hispanic male (63.4%) students, respectively; and higher among 9th-grade female (53.0%) than 9th-grade male (48.9%) students.

17.2% of students had drunk alcohol (other than a few sips) for the first time before age 13 years. The prevalence was higher among male (19.7%) than female (14.6%) students and was higher among black (18.0%) and Hispanic (21.3%) than white (14.5%) students.

From 1991–2015, a significant linear decrease occurred overall in the prevalence of having drunk alcohol for the first time before age 13 years (32.7%– 17.2%). It did not change significantly during 1991– 1999 (32.7%–32.2%) and then decreased during 1999–2015 (32.2%–17.2%). The prevalence of having drunk alcohol for the first time before age 13 years did not change significantly from 2013 (18.6%) to 2015 (17.2%).

Across 36 states, the prevalence of having drunk alcohol for the first time before age 13 years ranged from 10.6% to 24.5% (median: 15.7%). Across 19 large urban school districts, the prevalence ranged from 14.8% to 23.6% (median: 18.1%).

Nationwide, 32.8% of students had consumed at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey (i.e., current alcohol use). The prevalence of current alcohol use was higher among white (35.2%) and Hispanic (34.4%) than black (23.8%) students, higher among white female (35.3%) and Hispanic female (35.6%) than black female (25.9%) students, and higher among white male (35.2%) and Hispanic male (33.4%) than black male (22.1%) students.

Among the 32.8% of students nationwide who currently drank alcohol, 44.1% had usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them during the 30 days before the survey. The prevalence of usually obtaining the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them was higher among female (48.5%) than male (39.9%) students; higher among white female (50.7%) and Hispanic female (45.9%) than white male (41.6%) and Hispanic male (36.5%) students, respectively.

4.3% of students reported that the largest number of drinks that they had consumed in a row (i.e., within a couple of hours) during the 30 days before the survey was 10 or more. The prevalence of drinking at these high levels was higher among male (6.1%) than female (2.5%) students; higher among white male (6.6%), black male (3.2%), and Hispanic male (6.5%) than white female (2.4%), black female (1.0%), and Hispanic female (3.6%) students, respectively.

During the 30 days before the survey, 20.0% of students nationwide had ridden in a car or other vehicle at least once with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. The prevalence was higher among Hispanic (26.2%) than white (17.7%) and black (21.1%) students.

During 1991–2015, a significant linear decrease occurred overall in the prevalence of having ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (39.9%– 20.0%). The prevalence decreased during 1991–2009 (39.9%–28.3%) and then decreased more gradually from 2009–2015 (28.3%–20.0%). Across 33 states, the prevalence of having ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol ranged from 14.2% to 25.5% (median: 18.3%). Across 18 large urban school districts, the prevalence ranged from 13.4% to 31.6% (median: 22.0%).

Among the 61.4% of students nationwide who drove a car or other vehicle during the 30 days before the survey, 7.8% had driven when they had been drinking alcohol. The prevalence was higher among male (9.5%) than female (6.0%) students and decreased significantly overall from 2013 (10.0%) to 2015 (7.8%). Across 35 states, the prevalence ranged from 4.3% to 10.9% (median: 7.1%).

www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth data/yrbs/index.htm
All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.