What is the Massachusetts Youth Health Survey?

The Massachusetts Youth Health Survey (YHS) is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's (MDPH) surveillance project to assess the health of youth and young adults in grades 6-12. It is conducted by the MDPH Center for Community Health in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE). The survey contains health status questions in addition to questions about risk behaviors and protective factors. The survey project was initiated in 1984 as the Triennial School Survey (TSS), assessing alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in grades 7-12. Grade six was added in 1996. The TSS instrument was last used in 1999.

In 2001, MESE and MDPH met to discuss coordination of MESE's Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MYRBS), with a new MDPH instrument. The interagency team solicited assistance from the University of Massachusetts Center for Survey Research (CSR).

The new YHS instrument currently used provides several different types of measurements:

  • It measures the prevalence of physical and mental health conditions, including chronic disease and disability.
  • It measures the prevalence of risky behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in youth, including:
    • alcohol, illicit drug, and tobacco use,
    • poor diet, physical activity, and weight control, and
    • violence and victimization.
  • The YHS also includes measures of possible "protective" factors, such as family support, that are associated with lowered levels of substance abuse and unhealthy behaviors, and which may help make students more "resilient" and less "at risk."

The YHS is used primarily for surveillance and needs assessment activities related to the 8 program divisions within the Center for Community Health. Statistics developed are used for block grant reporting to the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Information has also been used to secure discretionary grant funding from SAMHSA and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One Health Brief has been developed and a full survey report from the 2004 administration is in final draft form.

Early in 2006, ESE and DPH began discussions with CSR and the CDC to coordinate the two survey efforts. The YHS is being administered in Massachusetts public Middle Schools and both the YHS and the YRBS are being administered in Massachusetts public High Schools.

Massachusetts Youth Health Survey Coordination Committee: Carol Goodenow, ESE, Chiniqua Milligan, ESE Stewart Landers, DPH, Robert Leibowitz, DPH and Anthony Roman, UMASS-Boston CSR.


This information is provided by the Office of Statistics and Evaluation within the Department of Public Health.