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High School Graduation, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: High School Graduation, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Educational attainment is a strong predictor of health outcomes. The connection between education and health is well-documented. Higher educational attainment is associated with better jobs, higher earnings, increased health knowledge, better self-reported health and fewer chronic conditions. Individuals with lower educational attainment are at a greater risk of adverse health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, mental health problems and premature death. Additionally, students who drop out of high school are more likely to experience incarceration.

According to one study, investments to reduce education-related disparities could save up to eight times more lives than equal investments in medical advances. Each high school dropout costs the United States more than $163,000 in lost revenue over a lifetime based on the lifetime differences between dropouts and graduates in income, taxes paid, government spending on health, crime and welfare. Increased time in school is also connected to higher social engagement over the lifetime.

  • U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data, 2016-2017 School Year

Overweight or Obesity-Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Overweight or Obesity - Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Childhood obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) value at or above the 95th percentile based on age and sex, while overweight is defined as a BMI value at or above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults compared with children and adolescents who do not have obesity. 

Overweight or obesity in childhood is associated with physical, social and psychological health issues during adolescence and adulthood. Some of the associated health issues include: substance misuse in adulthood, increased risk of disordered eating behaviors and chronic diseases as well as poor self-esteem. Weight stigma, also known as weight-based discrimination or weight bias, can also negatively impact a child’s psychological and physical health. 

A child with obesity faces an estimated $19,000 more in lifetime direct medical costs than a child without obesity.

  • National Survey of Children's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), 2016-2017

Substance Use Disorder-Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Substance Use Disorder-Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Drug or alcohol abuse or dependence during adolescence has a significant impact on health and well-being with lasting impacts into adulthood. Substance misuse among adolescents increases the risk of the following:

  • Impaired physical and cognitive development
  • Likelihood of other risky behaviors, such as impaired driving and unprotected sex
  • Development of other health concerns in adulthood, such as heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Becoming addicted or continuing to use substances later in life


Alcohol misuse among adolescents has significantly decreased within the past five years, but still remains a tremendous public health concern. According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System Survey, 30 percent of high school students reported drinking some amount of alcohol and 14 percent reported binge drinking during the past month. Excessive drinking is responsible for the deaths of more than 4,300 adolescents each year and approximately 119,000 emergency department visits. Underage drinking cost the United States an estimated $24.3 billion in direct health care costs, treatment costs and lost productivity in 2010.


The use of many illicit drugs has gradually trended downwards in recent years, however, the prevalence of illicit drug use is higher among youth and young adults ages 12-25 than adults ages 26 and older. According to the 2015 Monitoring the Future Survey, 23.6 percent of high school seniors reported using an illicit drug with 7.6 percent reporting using a drug other than marijuana during the past month. Drug use at an early age is an important predictor of substance use disorder later in life and has a significant impact on both physical and mental functioning of adolescents into adulthood.

Drug overdose

Despite the recent downward trend in youth drug misuse, research shows a dramatic rise in the number of youth drug overdose deaths in the last 15 years. According to Trust for America’s Health, drug overdose death rates for teens and young adults (aged 12 to 25) more than doubled in 18 states, more than tripled in 12 states and more than quadrupled in five states between 1999-2001 and 2011-2013.

  • SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015-2016

Tobacco Use-Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report
Measure: Tobacco Use - Youth, 2019 Health Of Women And Children Report

Why does this matter?

Tobacco use has well-known and wide-ranging adverse impacts on an individual’s health. People who use tobacco are at greater risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. According to a report from the Surgeon General, tobacco use remains a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. While the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco has declined among youth in recent years, this decline has been countered with increases in the use of other emerging tobacco products, especially electronic cigarettes. Commonly known as e-cigs or vape pens, electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing cigarettes in 2014.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and tobacco companies’ strategies to get tobacco users hooked early, such as flavored tobacco products. Nearly 9 in 10 cigarette smokers have their first cigarette by age 18. Each day in the U.S., about 1,600 youth smoke their first cigarette, and 200 youth become everyday smokers. An estimated 5.6 million youth under age 18 today will die prematurely from diseases caused by long-term tobacco use later in life. Further, smoking is responsible for approximately $170 billion in health care expenditures and an additional $156 billion in lost productivity annually in the U.S.

  • SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2016-2017

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