North Dakota Students Remain at Risk for Health-Related Behaviors 

State Youth Risk Survey Results Released

BISMARCK, N.D., Dec. 5, 2017 — State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said Tuesday that a newly published survey of North Dakota high school student health behavior revealed positive trends in several areas.

“The results clearly show we are moving in the right direction in impacting risk behaviors such as decreased tobacco use and increased seat belt usage, and 75% of our students reported earning A’s and B’s,” Baesler said. “Also, cell phone use and texting while driving also showed promising decreases, but they still remain over 50 percent.”

Youth suicide attempts and students reporting that they felt sad and hopeless continue to increase. “It is evident that we still have work to do in reducing risk behaviors and ensuring healthy futures for all students,” Baesler said. “Health and academics need to be addressed simultaneously as an integral part of providing quality education.”

The information is part of the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was released by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction this week. The survey analyzes data that was gathered from North Dakota students in January and February of this year. Participating schools were chosen at random; 2,142 students from 61 public high schools answered the survey.

The survey shows that student technology use continues to increase. YRBS data shows that the number of North Dakota high school students spending three or more hours each day (other than homework) on electronic devices rose from 39% to 44% in the past two years.

The data also shows increased behavioral health issues among girls, including suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts; electronic bullying; and problems with self-esteem.

Student engagement is one of the key objectives in North Dakota’s plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is a federal education law. “We hope our efforts to measure and increase student engagement of students in school will reduce the trend of increased behavioral health issues, bullying, and self- esteem problems,” Baesler said.

Here are behavior trends among North Dakota high school students when the new YRBS results are compared to results from 2013:

o Students who rarely or never wore a seat when riding in a car decreased from 12% to 8%.
o Students who reported they drove while drinking decreased from 11% to 7%.
o Electronic bullying increased to 19%.
o Students who felt sad or hopeless increased from 25% to 29% and students who reported attempting suicide increased from 12% to 14%.
o Students who texted or emailed while driving decreased from 59% to 53%.
o Students who talked on the cell phone while driving decreased from 68% to 56%.
o Students who ever tried smoking decreased from 41% to 31 %.
o Students who currently drink alcohol decreased from 35% to 29%.

“After each survey, what we hope to see is a consistent pattern of downward data trends in youth violence and alcohol, tobacco and drug use, but upward data trends in physical activity, communication and resiliency,” said Robin Lang, the NDDPI’s assistant director for safe and healthy schools. “Research shows that success is based on three complementary and comprehensive approaches: the relationship youth have with trusted adults and peers, shared family morals and values, and consistent health education in schools.”

North Dakota youth in grades 7-12 began participating in the YRBS survey in 1995. In addition to high school students, 2,381 students from 68 public middle schools answered the 2017 survey.

The survey is voluntary and responses are completely anonymous. The survey monitors priority health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among youth in the United States.

The YRBS was designed to monitor trends and compare state health risk behaviors to national health risk behaviors. In addition, the YRBS is intended for use in planning, evaluating and improving school and
community programs.

National YRBS data is expected to be released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the summer of 2018. That data will compare all states that participate in the YRBS.

More information about the YRBS results can be accessed at or by calling the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction at 701.328.2753.