Washington’s 2023 Healthy Youth Survey results show improved health behaviors among students in grades 6 through 12

Responses from 1,300 Lewis County students included in survey


The results of the 2023 Healthy Youth Survey indicated that Washington students reported improved health behaviors and mental health as well as increased social support compared to previous years.

“While concerns remain, the findings suggest positive changes in adolescent health and wellbeing. These results are an opportunity to carry this momentum forward and continue focusing on prevention and resiliency among youth in Washington,” the state Department of Health (DOH) stated in a news release.

The biennial survey is open to Washington students in grades 6-12 and focuses on the health and wellbeing of young people, according to the DOH. Student participation is voluntary and anonymous. The last survey was conducted in 2021, and 2023 marked the 18th statewide youth survey in Washington, according to the news release.

“The Healthy Youth Survey provides educators and policymakers with important insight into our students’ well-being,” State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said. “Our students are telling us that they are continuing to recover from the impacts of the pandemic –– they are resilient, and hopeful, and they are getting access to the supports they need. While we still have work to do, the focused work of our educators, the support of our families and community members, and the resources provided by our Legislature are making a difference.”

The statewide results for 2023 include the responses of 217,000 students, roughly 1,300 of whom attend school in Lewis County.

Roughly 44% of Lewis County’s eighth graders and roughly 50% of Lewis County’s sixth- and 10th-graders participated in the survey. Fewer than 40% of Lewis County’s 12th graders participated, so the results were not counted in the reports, according to DOH.

The survey notes that the results of surveys with participation rates between 40 to 69% “may be representative of students in this grade,” but a 70% or higher participation rate is required for the results to be “likely representative” of students.

The survey results are accessible at https://www.askhys.net/


Drug use

Statewide, the Healthy Youth Survey results show the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a large decrease, roughly 50%, in most youth substance use, according to a news release.

Of the 10th graders surveyed statewide, 8% reported current vaping, 9% reported current alcohol use and 8% reported current cannabis use.

Exceptions to this stable trend were increases in misuse of prescription drugs, pain killers and other illegal drugs compared to 2021.

“While representing a relatively small proportion of students overall, each under 3%, these findings show more prevention work is needed,” the DOH states in the news release.

There was also an increase in 2023 in the number of 10th graders who reported ever having alcohol, but that remains lower than students reported in 2018 (49% in 2018; 32% in 2021; 40% in 2023).

In Lewis County, 6% of the surveyed 10th graders reported current vaping, 14% reported current alcohol use and 12% reported current cannabis use. The numbers are all increases from 2021 results — which documented 3% current vaping, 7% current alcohol use and 7% marijuana use — but are lower than 2018 results, which documented 9% current vaping, 17% current alcohol use and 17% current cannabis use.


Mental health

Mental health outcomes among 10th graders statewide are improving, but “remain highly concerning, especially for youth who already face more barriers to mental health support,” the DOH stated in a news release.

According to the new data, depressive feelings and contemplation or planning suicide significantly decreased statewide from 2021 to 2023. Even so, 30% of 10th graders reported persistent depressive feelings, and nearly 15% reported contemplating suicide.

In Lewis County, roughly 36% of 10th graders reported persistent depressive feelings and roughly 20% reported contemplating suicide.

“While this is an unacceptable level of youth struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is also the lowest rate we have seen in Washington in 20 years,” the DOH stated.

The same improving trends seen among youth in general were also seen among sexually or gender-diverse (LGBTQ+) youth and those reporting a disability. However, many of these students still experience far higher levels of mental health issues. Statewide, depressive feelings were nearly two times higher for students who identify as female compared to male, more than two times higher for LGBTQ+ youth, and three times higher among students identifying as having a disability.

“We hope to leverage these positive trends in the 2023 survey to close disparity gaps where they exist in communities throughout our state. We want to ensure we continue to see positive trends for years to come for all families and communities. It is important to maintain focus on adolescent substance use and mental health, while also using prevention strategies to address other challenges facing young people including disordered eating and violence,” said Michael Langer, assistant director at the Washington State Health Care Authority.

The survey results show that 10th graders statewide reported significant increases in social support in 2023 compared to 2021, according to DOH.

In Lewis County, roughly 11% reported “having no adults to turn to when sad or hopeless,” down from 17% in 2021 and 16% in 2018, according to localized survey results.


Moving forward

“Overall, we are encouraged by these results after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, a pediatrician and Chief Science Officer at the Washington state Department of Health. “We see these as a sign that our state’s system of families, schools, communities, and programs are helping to support youth and make positive change. Adolescent health in Washington is improving in many ways but much work remains to be done. It’s up to us to keep up the momentum and keep things moving in the right direction.”

Visit AskHYS.net to access resources, explore the data dashboard, propose new or modified survey questions for 2025, learn about the survey process, or learn how to advocate for your child’s school to participate in the next round.