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OSDH Releases Health Behavior Survey of Oklahoma High School Students

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Oklahoma City – The most recent Oklahoma Youth Behavior Risk Survey (YRBS) shows a 50% decrease in teens that have ever tried cigarette smoking and a 20% decrease in teens who texted or emailed while driving, while just under half of the students surveyed reported signs of depression last year.

“We know that the pandemic added to mental health struggles facing Oklahoma students,” said Joyce Marshall, the Director of the Maternal and Child Health Service for OSDH. “This data helps shed light on areas where we need to provide more resources and programs for youth and their parents, and areas where we are having a real impact.”

The YRBS is a health behavior survey of public high school students and plays a critical role in understanding the health status and needs of Oklahoma youth.

The YRBS was administered to randomly selected schools in fall 2021. The survey results will allow OSDH and partners to more effectively plan and implement youth-focused health programs.

“The survey monitors a wide range of important indicators, such as, injury and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors, diet and physical activity, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs),” said Alicia Lincoln, Child & Adolescent Health Administrative Programs Manager for OSDH.

In 2021, the Oklahoma YRBS added 13 questions on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and three questions on Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs).

Eight core ACEs questions were used to create a composite score from zero to eight. Core ACE questions included: experiencing verbal abuse in the home; experiencing or witnessing physical violence in the home; living with someone who had a problem with alcohol or drug use, living with someone who was depressed or mentally ill, or having been separated from a parent or guardian because they ever went to jail or prison; and not having their basic needs met.

Four out of ten of the surveyed students reported experiencing three or more ACEs.

The three PCEs questions were used to create a composite score of zero to three. PCEs questions included: having an adult in their life they could talk to about their feelings; having a friend they could talk to about their feelings; and feeling close to people in their school.

Data collected show nearly half of students reported all three PCEs.

For parents and staff working with youth, the most important way to keep youth informed and safe is through honest and open communication. For caregivers who need tips for talking about issues like consent, healthy relationships, abstinence, bullying, and depression visit:  Lets Talk Month - Tool Kit | Powered by Box. For families with youth who are experiencing signs of sadness or struggling with substance use, call or text 988 to connect with trained mental health professionals.

For more information on the YRBS and to view the full data report, please visit or call (405) 426-8092.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) protects and improves public health through its system of local health services and strategies focused on preventing disease. OSDH provides technical support and guidance to 68 county health departments in Oklahoma, as well as guidance and consultation to the two independent city-county health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Learn more at