Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Funded by Emerson Health as part of its Community Benefits Program, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) helps us understand the health issues experienced by public school students in our region. It is coordinated by Market Street Research in Northampton, Mass., and has been conducted every two years since 1997.

Emerson’s YRBS is a survey of students in 6th grade, 8th grade, and high school. Ten public school districts participated in the March 2024 survey, totaling 7,885 students. The following school districts distributed the survey to their students: Acton-Boxborough, Ayer-Shirley, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord and Concord-Carlisle High School, Groton-Dunstable, Harvard, Littleton, Maynard, and Nashoba Regional.


Emerson’s 2024 YRBS revealed some key insights about student behavior, including the following. Please note that these results reflect aggregate survey responses. You may contact your school system directly to see the results from your specific school.

  • Feeling safe with and supported by family
    • Both feelings of safety and support showed an increase among students of all grades compared to 2022.
  • Having guardians who monitor cell phone use
    • Showed an increase among 6th and 8th grade students compared to all previous years and among high schoolers compared to 2022.
  • Having an adult at school they can talk to and being likely to seek them out if they have an issue
    • Both showed an increase among all students compared to 2022.
  • Not experiencing difficulty handling stressful events
    • Demonstrated an increase among all grades compared to 2022.
  • Being bullied at school
    • Showed an increase among students of all grades compared to all previous years.
  • Spending too much time on social media
    • Showed an increase among 8th grade and high school students since 2022.
  • Being threatened or injured by someone with a weapon in the past 12 months
    • For 6th grade students, rates of being threatened or injured doubled between 2020 and 2024 (3% and 6%, respectively). It remained stable for other grades.

The findings help school administrators establish health promotion goals aimed to reduce students’ risky behavior, create updated school curricula, and inform Emerson Health’s community health needs assessment.  School districts have used the data to increase staff and provide professional development around mental health issues and social justice.

Since Emerson began the YRBS 25 years ago, school districts have used the data to address mental health in a variety of ways. Over the years, some schools established peer groups to support students with anxiety and depression. Others created affinity groups, including those for LGBTQ+ youth and programs to support youth of different racial backgrounds.

A Note About Survey Questions

The survey questions were thoughtfully selected by school leaders and the professional research team based on the objectives to measure existing health risks and identify emerging trends. Leadership at each school district reviewed and approved the questions before students took the survey. The schools informed parents about the survey in advance. Parents were invited to preview all questions by requesting a link to the survey, and could choose to have their child(ren) opt out of the survey.

If you have any questions about your school district’s YRBS, or would like to see the results from a specific school, please contact your school administration office directly or email

Thank you to all the school districts and students who participated in the 2022 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Impact of the Pandemic on Youth Risk Behavior

In March 2021, Acton-Boxborough, Groton-Dunstable and Maynard school districts collaborated with Emerson Hospital to understand the social and behavioral impacts of COVID-19. Nearly 2,500 students from these three districts completed the COVID Response Survey either from home (if accessing school virtually) or at school (if attending in-person). The questionnaire covered most of the topics included in the 2020 YRBS along with new items specifically about students’ perspectives on how the pandemic has affected them.