Health Status and Behaviors

Monitoring the health status of infants, children, and adolescents allows health professionals, program planners, and policymakers to assess the impact of past and current health interventions and prevention programs and identify areas of need within the child population. Although indicators of child health and well-being are often assessed on an annual basis, some surveillance systems collect data at regular intervals, such as every 2, 4, or 5 years. Trends can be identified by examining and comparing data from one data collection period to the next when multiple years of data are available.

In this section, mortality, disease, and health behavior indicators are presented by age group: infants, children, and adolescents. The health status indicators in this section are based on vital statistics and national surveys and surveillance systems. Population-based samples are designed to yield information that is representative of the maternal and child populations that are affected by, or in need of, specific health services or interventions.

Key Findings

  • In 2012, approximately 1 in 5 adolescents had a mental disorder and the increased risk for struggles with school, use of drugs and alcohol, and the development of chronic illnesses in adulthood.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among adolescents aged 12–17 years, with 12.9 percent reporting past-month use in 2012. In 2012, 9.5 percent of adolescents reported using illicit drugs, with marijuana the most commonly reported.
  • In 2011, 24,001 U.S infants died before their first birthday, representing a rate of 6.07 deaths per 1,000 live births. Conditions related to prematurity accounted for more than a third of these infant deaths.
  • In 2011–2012, nearly 30 percent of children aged 2–11 years were overweight or obese, 66.9 percent were of normal weight, and 3.4 percent were underweight. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was highest among Hispanic children (40 percent).
  • In 2013, 42 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders were at or above proficiency in mathematics, while 35 percent and 36 percent, respectively, were at or above proficiency in reading.
  • According to preliminary data for 2013, the overall birth rate for adolescents aged 15–19 years was 26.6 births per 1,000 females, representing an 11 percent decline from 2012 (29.4 per 1,000) and an historic low for the United States.
  • In 2013, only 27.1 percent of high school students reported meeting the 2008 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for participation in physical activity.
  • Nearly 20 percent of high school students reported being bullied on school property and 14.8 percent reported being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, Web sites, or texting, in 2013.