The Top Six Teen Risk Behaviors

It’s true that teens and young adults are going to engage in some sort of risky behavior. It goes hand in hand with their need to explore, discover, and grow, a psychological and emotional necessity at this stage in life.

Youth Risk According to the CDC

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is an organization that protects America from healthy, safety, and security threats. Among their many tasks and large-scale projects, they maintain research and health statistics on adolescents. For instance, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors six priority adolescent risk behaviors that play a role in the causes of death, disability, and social problems among teens and young adults. These behaviors often begin in childhood or early adolescence and are listed below:

1. Behaviors that Contribute to Unintentional Injuries and Violence

According to the CDC, there are certain risky behaviors that lead to unintentional injury, such as mobile phone use while driving, riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet, not wearing a seatbelt when riding as a passenger in a car, and riding in cars with drivers who had been drinking.  Furthermore, the CDC recognizes behaviors among teens that specifically lead to violence such as carrying a weapon, carrying a gun specifically versus other weapons, being in a physical fight, experiencing being hit, slapped, or physically hurt intentionally by a boyfriend or girlfriend (dating violence), avoiding school because of its lack of safety, experiencing bullying, or considering and/or attempting suicide.

2. Sexual Behaviors That Lead to Unwanted Pregnancies or Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In addition to the behaviors listed above, there are risk factors that contribute to unintentional pregnancies and diseases, such as having intercourse before the age of 13, having multiple partners, not using protection during intercourse, not being tested for HIV, drinking alcohol or using drugs during or before intercourse.

3. Alcohol or Drug Use

Risky behaviors regarding alcohol or drug use include having at least one drink during their lifetime, currently drinking on a regular basis, having five or more drinks in a row (binge drinking experiences), trying other drugs such as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, methamphetamines, steroids, or prescription drugs.

4. Vaping & Tobacco Use

Behaviors that lead to tobacco use include vaping, experimenting with cigarette smoking, smoking an entire cigarette before the age of 13, smoking a cigarette at least once in a week, and using various forms of smokeless tobacco. Vaping in particular has become a tremendous problem in the teen and young adult population, with research emerging on its short and medium drastic negative impact on the mental and physical health of those who engage in vaping.

5. Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors

Risky behavior that leads to unhealthy diets include not eating the right amounts of fruit or drinking fruit juices, not eating any vegetables, not drinking milk, drinking sugar-based drinks such as sodas, not eating breakfast.

6. Inadequate Physical Activity

Risky behavior that leads to lack of physical health is not getting enough exercise, which includes the following risk factors: not doing any cardio activity in the last week, not attending Physical Education classes, playing video games or spending time on the computer for 3 or more hours per day, watching television for 3 or more hours per day.

Although it is natural for teens to explore, when some of these teen risk behaviors become habitual it can be dangerous. The CDC keeps tracks of the leading causes of death among teens with respect to the risky behaviors described above. For instance, in 2010, 12,341 adolescents between the ages of 15-24, died due to an unintentional injury; 4,678 died due to homicide; and 4,600 died because of suicide.

Knowing these teen risk behaviors can help keep teens safe and prevent injury, violence, or even death.

Related Links:

Benefits of Residential Treatment
How Paradigm Treatment can help
6 Types of Risky Behavior to Watch Out For
Differences Between Abnormal and Normal Teen Behavior



The Center for Disease Control. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: 2011 National Overview. Retrieved on April 9, 2014 from:

The Center for Disease Control. 10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States – 2010. Retrieved on April 9, 2014 from:

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