About HYS

The Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) is a collaborative effort of the Health Care Authority - Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR), the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), and the contractor, Looking Glass Analytics. This biennial survey is administered to 6th-12th grade students across the state.

Purpose of the HYS

The HYS invites youth in Washington state to share about their wellbeing, behaviors, attitudes, community and school experiences, and more. The 2023 survey was the 18th statewide survey of Washington students and the 11th iteration of the HYS. Participation has been steadily increasing over time. In 2023, over 215,000 students from all 39 counties participated in HYS.  

The HYS is designed to accomplish multiple goals:

  • To deliver crucial information about the prevalence of major adolescent health risk behaviors to parents, the public, school officials, public health professionals, human service agencies and policymakers. 
  • To identify trends and patterns in adolescent health and risky behaviors, supporting the examination and evaluation of many different prevention, safety, and health promotion initiatives. 
  • To guide policy formation and improve program needs assessments of state agencies, local health jurisdictions, county prevention programs, community mobilization coalitions, and community public health and safety networks that serve youth. 
  • The survey also produces an analytic dataset for use by approved researchers and provides data to various community stakeholders for use in federal, state, local, or private agency grant applications.

Examples of how HYS results are used in Washington:

  • The Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI) uses HYS results to prioritize communities across the state for funding coalition-based prevention programs (e.g., parenting classes, making healthy choices, etc.).
  • Some local health jurisdictions use their local HYS data for locally relevant reports to share with communities or for data visualization platforms to facilitate analysis of local results. Others use these data to inform community health assessments, grant writing or program and policy evaluation.
  • Researchers have used HYS data to assess the relationship between certain risk factors and health outcomes that affect particular communities in Washington. For example, some studies have looked at mental health inequities among rural, LGBTQ+, and Latino/a/e youth and the potential relationship to school environment, local policy and other social factors. 
  • Schools can use HYS results to make informed decisions and apply for grants to address specific needs. For example, this grant, which uses the Botvin LifeSkills program to teach youth how to cope with and manage stress and anxiety, build positive relationship and communication skills, and develop refusal skills to prevent and reduce substance use and abuse.
  • HYS results help guide state law and policy discussions by revealing more about how students use, access, and feel about different substances, like alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, and vapor products.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the focus of the Healthy Youth Survey (HYS)?

The HYS focuses on a broad range of topics, including mental health, substance use, physical movement, social engagement and support, families, and school experience.  The survey also includes questions about risk and protective factors, which are attitudes and opinions that research has shown are linked to health outcomes. Copies of the Survey Questionnaires and a document with a description of the survey questions, Rationale and Description of Survey Content, is available on the Survey Questionnaires page. 

Why is the survey conducted?

The survey is used to identify and monitor factors that affect the health of youth in Washington. The Healthy Youth Survey has been conducted across the state since 2002. 

Survey results can indicate changes in health behaviors over time and schools can use the results to identify important areas of need. 

When is the survey conducted? When are results available?

The last HYS was administered in the Fall of 2023 and results were made available in March 2024. The next survey will be administered in the fall of 2025 and subsequent surveys will be administered in the fall of odd years.

Which schools are allowed to participate?

Any Washington public school with students in Grades 6, 8, 10, or 12 is eligible to participate, except for detention facilities.  

Small school districts with fewer than 150 students enrolled in Grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 can survey additional grades 7, 9, and 11. Grades 6 and 7 receive a simpler and shorter version of the questions that are asked in grades 8 through 12. This option is intended to provide more reliable data to schools with very few students.

Private schools can participate upon request. 

Schools that are unable to administer the survey in-person (e.g., Alternative Learning Experiences, online learning, virtual, etc.) will also be able to participate upon request and will be allowed to administer the survey remotely. 

How can I find out which schools have participated in the HYS?

You can check on participation on the Past Participation page.   
Was your school not represented in the HYS data? Connect to the Educational Service District, local coalition, or Superintendent near you to help you navigate the process of getting your school to participate!     

Who will be asked to take the survey?

Students in 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades take the survey. 

In smaller districts, where there are 150 students or less in a grade, the survey can be administered to students in 7th, 9th, and 11th grades.  

Why should my school participate?

Each school will receive a summary of its results (provided that student anonymity is protected by having at least 15 valid surveys completed per given grade level). Statewide results are also included for comparison. School building and district results are provided to the district superintendent for release. This Healthy Youth Survey information is provided at no cost to the schools.  

The survey also provides very useful data to state agencies, county prevention coordinators, community mobilization coalitions, community public health and safety networks, and others so they can support students and school programs.

How is the survey coordinated at each school?

Each participating school has a designated survey coordinator, to help organize local survey efforts. These persons have additional information about the survey, including administration instructions.

Is student participation voluntary? Are answers anonymous?

Student participation is completely voluntary and anonymous. 

The administration procedures are designed to protect student privacy and anonymity. Students are not asked for their names or identification numbers. 

There is no way for survey responses to be linked back to students and no one can view the responses while students are taking the survey. When they finish the survey, students directly submit their survey anonymously. 

Schools plan an alternative activity for students who choose not to take the survey. 

What questions are on the survey?

The survey includes questions related to unintentional and intentional injuries; physical activity and dietary behaviors; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; and related risk and protective factors. Unless questions in these topic areas are asked honestly and straightforwardly, we cannot know the degree to which Washington’s youth engage in these health-risk behaviors.  

For grades 8, 10, and 12, surveys include questions about sexual behavior and abuse. Schools can submit an exemption request during registration if they don’t want to ask questions about one or both topics.  

The survey administered to younger students (grades 6 and 7) does not include sexual behavior and abuse-related questions.  

To learn more about the survey topics please visit the Survey Questionnaires page.

Will asking questions about certain topics actually encourage certain behaviors?

There is no evidence that simply asking students about health behaviors will encourage them to try that behavior.

What oversight is provided for the survey?

Representatives of these agencies serve as members on the Healthy Youth Survey Planning Committee, which guides every aspect of the survey development and implementation. In addition, stakeholders such as Washington State researchers, local health jurisdictions, educational agencies, and other local partners provide valuable input into the development and administration of the survey

The Washington State Institutional Review Board (WSIRB) provides review, approval, and oversight for HYS on: 

  • Survey methods
  • Survey recruitment and administration materials
  • The parent and student notification processes
  • Survey content and questions 
  • Rules for reporting HYS results and data sharing requirements

How did the 2023 HYS compare to surveys that have been administered in the past?

HYS 2023 was similar to past surveys.

To make the survey experience better for students, only a subset of questions is asked of all students in grades 8-12. The remaining questions were randomized so that students were asked approximately half of the questions in order to keep the survey shorter. All students in grades 6 and 7 receive a shorter questionnaire.  

One major difference from past surveys is that the 2023 HYS was administered fully online(no paper surveys were used). The survey was administered in person at school. Alternative Learning Environment schools (e.g., online or virtual) that are unable to administer the survey synchronously during an online class period were allowed to administer the survey remotely with permission. 

Copies of the survey are available on the Survey Questionnaire page.

How are the survey results used?

Information from the Washington State HYS can be used to meet a variety of needs at the school, community, and state levels. The survey provides information that can be used to identify the importance of various health risk behaviors. This information can inform resource and policy decisions, such as how to target interventions. Those who receive the survey results may choose to share them with other community organizations.  

The items that were asked in previous years can be used to identify trends or changes in the patterns of behavior over time. The state-level data can be used to compare Washington's results to the results from other states that conduct similar surveys and to national results.  

Legitimate researchers and educational and health officials can request access to the anonymous data. At the state and federal levels, a variety of interests are competing for limited resources. The results of this survey can and have been used to provide evidence for the high priority of the important health issues identified. 

Can I review the survey?

Yes, the questions are available on the Survey Questionnaires page. 

How long does it take to complete the survey?

Students will have one class period (about 50 minutes) to complete the survey. All questions are self-report and no physical tests or examinations are involved.

Do students answer the questions truthfully?

Both national research and experience in Washington indicate that the data collected are accurate when students are informed of the importance of the survey and their responses are completely anonymous. 

Internal reliability checks are also used to help identify surveys that obviously have been answered carelessly and these surveys are not included in the results. 

In addition, students always have the option of not answering questions to which they do not feel comfortable responding. 

Who sponsors the survey?

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI); Department of Health (DOH); Health Care Authority Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR); and Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB).

Where can I get more information about the survey?

The following is a list of contact persons who will be happy to answer questions: 

  • HYS Principal Investigator (DOH): healthy.youth@doh.wa.gov, (877) HYS-7111 
  • Tyler Watson (DBHR): Tyler.Watson@hca.gov, (360) 725-5259 
  • Doua Kha (OSPI): Doua.Kha@k12.wa.gov, (608)-320-9140 
  • Kristen Haley (LCB): Kristen.Haley@lcb.wa.gov, (360)-522-0421 
  • Susan Richardson (contractor): SurveyAdmin@AskHYS.net, (877) HYS-7111 

Find more links and contacts on the HYS Contacts page.

Survey Content

HYS questionnaires include items about demographics, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, vaping, and other drug use health concerns (nutrition and fitness, health conditions and health care, behaviors related to intentional/unintentional injuries, mental health) school climate hope and risk and protective factors (community, school, peer and individual, and family).

Survey Questionnaires for 2023

For additional information on survey content and development, go to the Survey Questionnaires page.

Survey Questionnaires