Health-Related Behaviors and Academic Achievement Among High School Students

CDC’s September 7, 2017 issue of The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report confirms that high school students reporting lower academic grades also report great health risk behaviors. In addition, data from the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that students with higher grades are less likely to participate in certain risk behaviors. While results do not prove a causal link, students who reported engaging in unhealthy behaviors struggle academically.


What is already known about this topic?

Studies have shown links between health-related behaviors and educational outcomes such as grades, test scores, and other measures of academic achievement; however, many of these studies have used samples that are not nationally representative or are out of date.

What is added by this report?

Analyses of nationwide 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (controlling for sex, race/ethnicity, and grade in school) reveal that high school students who received mostly A’s, mostly B’s, or mostly C’s had significantly higher prevalence estimates for most protective health-related behaviors and significantly lower prevalence estimates for most health-related risk behaviors compared with students with mostly D’s/F’s.

What are the implications for public health practice?

School health interventions can promote positive health behaviors and improve both health and academic outcomes for students. Evidence suggests that educational and public health institutions have a shared interest in promoting student health and that collaborative efforts have the potential to make important strides in improving the health and academic achievement of youths.

Sleepy Teens Are Risk-Taking Teens

Sleep-deprived high school students are more likely to sustain injuries — often due to risky behaviors — than those who are well rested, U.S. health officials reported.

In a study of more than 50,000 students, researchers found that those teens who got seven hours of sleep or less on school nights were more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, riding with a drinking driver, and drinking and driving.

The study also found that teens who slept 10 or more hours a night were also prone to injuries and risky behaviors, compared with students who slept nine hours.

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Some E-cigarettes Contain Enough Alcohol to Affect Motor Skills

The electronic cigarette consists of a battery on the bottom and a bottom-coiled tank on top. Electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity, but concern still lingers nationwide about their safety. e-Cig culture includes "vaping" meet-ups and an array of build-your-own products. (Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1141788

Some types of e-cigarettes contain enough alcohol to affect motor skills, a new study concludes. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquids, which may contain alcohol and other chemicals.

Yale University researchers tested people who used two commercially available e-cigarettes with either high or low amounts of alcohol. Neither group said they felt differently after they inhaled the vapor. But those who used e-cigarettes with high alcohol levels performed more poorly on psychomotor tests. In some cases, they had detectable levels of alcohol in their urine.

About three-quarters of the commercial e-cigarette liquids tested contained less than 1 percent alcohol. Some e-cigarette users create their own liquids with high alcohol content, the researchers note in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Almost nothing is known about the prevalence of using e-liquids that contain alcohol, they said.

Lead researcher Dr. Mehmet Sofuoglu said the findings are worrisome, especially in light of a recent government report that found e-cigarette use among teens tripled from 2013 to 2014. An estimated 13 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2014—compared with 9 percent who smoked traditional cigarettes.

CDC Announcement: E-cigarettes and high-school students

Adapted from: CDC Announcement: E-cigarette ads reach nearly 7 in 10 middle and high-school students

E-cigarette ads reach nearly 7 in 10 middle and high-school students

Many ads use themes that appeal to youth

About 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million young people – see e-cigarette advertising in stores, online, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report.

Exposure to e-cigarette advertisements may be contributing to increases in e-cigarette use among youth.

E-cigarette ads use many of the same themes – independence, rebellion, and sex – used to sell cigarettes. Advertising of tobacco products has been shown to cause young people to start using those products.

  • In 2014, e-cigarettes became the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes.
  • During 2011 to 2014, current e-cigarette use among high school students soared from 1.5% to 13.4 %.
  • As shown in the graph below, spending on e-cigarette advertising rose from $6.4 million in 2011 to an estimated $115 million in 2014.


States, communities, and others could reduce youth access to e-cigarettes.

 E-cigarettes typically deliver nicotine, which at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use. Strategies to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes could include:

  • Limiting tobacco product sales to facilities that never admit youth
  • Restricting the number of stores that sell tobacco and how close they can be to schools
  • Requiring that e-cigarettes be sold only through face-to-face transactions, not on the Internet
  • Requiring age verification to enter e-cigarette vendor’s websites, make purchases, and accept deliveries of e-cigarettes

For more information on CDC’s youth tobacco prevention activities, please visit or contact Jen Greaser at

High School Students’ Perceptions About the Value of PE Classes

High school PEFrom Shape America

New research conducted by myCollegeOptions® and SHAPE America offers unique and valuable insight into the attitudes of students themselves toward physical education. While other studies focus on the views of health organizations, educators and parents, students also have something to say: they value their physical education curriculum.

Research from this study shows that most high school students currently participating in physical education classes have a positive perception of PE and its impact on their lives in and out of school:

  • Overall, nearly eight in 10 students think physical education class is important to their overall school experiences with 33% reporting “very important” and 47% reporting “somewhat important.” Twenty percent of students believe physical education class is not important to their overall school experiences.
  • Nearly half of students report that their participation in physical education class is important to their future health (49%), helps them to relieve stress (45%), helps them to work well with others (36%), makes them feel good (36%), gives them confidence (28%) and helps them to focus (24%).
  • More than half of the students report learning how to maintain a physically active lifestyle (56%), how to set fitness goals and maintain fitness levels (54%), and how to play sports (51%);48% report gaining skill development because of their experiences in physical education classes.

Despite abundant opportunities to engage in physical activity outside of physical education classes, a large number of students rely on PE classes as their only opportunity for physical activity during the day, further underscoring the importance of physical education in schools.

  • Four in 10 students say they participate in physical activity outside of a physical education class five days in an average week, while 31% report three to four days, 18% report one to two days, and 11% of students report they do not participate in physical activity outside of a physical education class in an average week.
  • Students in lower income households and first-generation students are sig­nificantly more likely to report a lower frequency of participation in physical activity outside of a physical education class.
  • Students in rural high schools are significantly more likely to report five or more days of physical activity outside of a physical education class compared to those in suburban and urban schools (44%, 39% and 35% respectively).
  • Students in lower income high schools are more likely to report a lower frequency of days in which they participate in physical activity outside of a physical education class compared to students in higher income high schools.

According to E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D., chief executive officer of SHAPE America, “It is critically important that students learn the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes in physical education class so that they will want to live healthy, physically active lives. These students reaffirm to us what we already know –health and physical education teachers are uniquely poised to ensure that all kids thrive as healthy and active adults.”

About myCollegeOptions®
MyCollegeOptions is the nation’s largest college planning program, operated by the National Research Center for College & University Admissions™ (NRCCUA®).  For 40 years, this education research organization based in Lee’s Summit, MO has served as the primary link between high school students and colleges, universities, and the resources they need to succeed.  For more information, visit

About SHAPE America
SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators is committed to ensuring all children have the opportunity to lead healthy, physically active lives. As the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals, SHAPE America works with its 50 state affiliates and national partners to support initiatives such as the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, Let’s Move! Active Schools and the Jump Rope For Heart/Hoops For Heart programs.

Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and our resources provide the leadership, professional development and advocacy that support health and physical educators at every level – from preschool to university graduate programs. For more information, visit