Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County 2015 Youth Survey Results Show Drop in Overall Teen Alcohol Use, But Increase in Emotional Health Issues

October 05, 2015
Stephanie Miller, 608.267.8823
County Executive

Madison - Today the Dane County Youth Commission announced their 2015 Survey Results. While alcohol use continued to decline among area middle and high school youth, students reporting feelings of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation increased from 2012. Since 1980, Dane County youth in grades 7-12 have been surveyed regarding their opinions, concerns, attitudes, behaviors and experiences to provide educators, policy-makers and funding bodies data to inform grant writing, program development and public policy. The survey is administered every three years to keep pace with youth trends.


More than 21,000 students in 16 school districts completed this year’s survey. The 2015 Dane County Youth Assessment Overview Report is now available on the Dane County web page, Youth Commission link, along with the Middle and High School Reports summarizing responses to every item on the 120 item survey.


“Since its inception, this survey has been a cooperative effort between Dane County, our Youth Commission, United Way of Dane County, the City of Madison, Public Health, school districts and, most importantly, the youth who have completed the survey providing us with such valuable insight,” said County Executive Joe Parisi.


The cost of the $31,560 survey is paid for by the Dane County Youth Commission ($5,880), Dane County Department of Human Services ($2,000), Public Health Madison & Dane County ($4,000), United Way of Dane County ($4,000), the City of Madison ($4,000) and participating school districts ($11,680).


“Student reports of increased anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation raise serious concerns for families, our schools and the overall health of the community” said Parisi, “Just last week, I announced the countywide expansion of the school based mental health teams to address the growing needs of our youth.”


In regards to emotional health, students completing the 2015 survey reported the following:

  • 25.7% of MS youth report feeling anxious compared to 18.5% in 2012.  Nearly 30% of African American HS students say they feel anxious always or often jumping to 45% for African American girls.
  • 22% of students reported sustained sadness that interfered with their activities in the past 12 months—30% for females up from 25.6% in 2012.
  • 22% of HS youth report self-harm activities in the past 12 months—double the student report in 2012.
  • 19% of all youth reported having suicidal thoughts, an increase from 12% in 2012.
  • 1,508 youth (5.8%) said they have attempted suicide in the past 12 months, an increase over 2012 when 1,179 reported suicide attempts.


“The results of this survey will be used extensively to help us understand the needs of youth in our community and to plan effectively to meet those needs,” said Meghan Benson, Chair of the Dane County Youth Commission.

Among the trends highlighted:

  • 67% of high school youth and 53% of middle school youth report volunteering in the past year—up from 2009, but a dip from 2012.
  • 54% of high school youth hold regular or occasional employment, an increase from 2012.
  • HS youth unable to find a job has decreased overall from 27% in 2009 to 19% in 2015. However, 35.5% of African American HS youth who report looking for a job are unable to find one.
  • 13% of MS youth report skipping classes, up 4% from 2012 while HS rates remained the same at 22%.
  • The percent of students reporting they don’t feel as if they “belong” at school increased from 16% in 2009, 17.5% in 2012 to 20% in 2015.
  • 35% of HS youth said they drank in the past 12 months, down from 43% in 2012.


“The survey also showed, however, that youth who consume alcohol on a weekly or monthly basis binge drink (five or more drinks in a sitting) at a significantly higher rate, are more likely to drink and drive, and/or demonstrate other risk behaviors,” noted Brian Koenig of K12 Associates, the survey administrator, “but we’re heading in the right direction by reducing overall levels of youth alcohol consumption through targeted prevention and social norming efforts.”


The Youth Commission and project partners are committed to maximizing the use and potential of this data base and will encourage more in-depth analysis throughout 2015 by the various funding partners, academic entities and by the Youth Assessment Steering Committee.




Back to Press Releases