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The survey results provide insight for school and health officials as well as parents and policymakers. Identifying trends in health issues or risky behaviors can help determine at what age interventions may be most useful, or whether existing interventions are working. The information also can help target limited resources toward the most pressing physical and mental health problems among young people.
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The Washington State Healthy Youth Survey is an optional, anonymous survey given every other year to students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12. It gathers information on topics such as physical activity and nutrition, alcohol and drug use, physical and sexual abuse, school safety, and depression and suicide. The 2018 survey was the sixteenth such statewide survey.
There are three versions of the survey. Two of them are for 8th grade and older. The core questions all are the same, and students in the same classroom may receive different forms. The goal is to make sure the greatest number of questions can be answered in the limited time available (one class period).
The third form of the survey is for 6th graders. It is shorter and less detailed.
Optional questions about sexual orientation, behavior and abuse are formatted so that they may be removed by schools that choose not to administer them without affecting the rest of the survey.
The survey is optional and anonymous, so students can answer honestly without fear of getting themselves or someone else in trouble.
Some parents worry that students are not honest with their answers, or that they don’t take the survey seriously. While there may be some dishonest answers, the sample size is large enough to trust that, overall, the data and trends are reliable. In 2016, more than 230,000 students from all across Washington took the survey, including more than 14,600 in Snohomish County.
There also are several questions and metrics in place in the surveys to help identify and remove any that are not truthful.