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Increase mental resilience among youth and 2 more... less...


Increase resilience and mental well-being among youth

Increase protective factors impacting youth

% of students in grades 9 through 12 who have an adult at school that they can talk to about serious problems

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: February, 2024

Author: Adolescent Health Program, Vermont Department of Health

This indicator, or population measure, is part of our Healthy Vermonters 2030 data set. Read more about how this data helps us understand and improve the well-being of people in Vermont on the Healthy Vermonters 2030 webpage.

Because this data is meant to show how the health of our state changes during the decade from 2020-2030, some indicators may have very few data points for now. Keep checking back to see the progress our public health system and partners are making.

We want to see the percent of students in grades 9-12 who reported that there is at least one teacher or other adults in their school that they can talk to if they have a problem increase to 78.4% or higher by 2030.

Seven in ten high school students agree or strongly agree that they have at least one teacher or adult in their school that they can talk to if they have a problem. However 15% say they do not have an adult at their school they could talk to if they had a problem.

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Why Is This Important?

Research has linked connection with a caring adult, at school, at home and in the community with a reduction of health risk factors.

Studies show that school connectedness during adolescence may have long-lasting protective effects across a range of adult health outcomes including:

  • emotional distress,
  • suicidal ideation,
  • physical violence victimization and perpetration,
  • multiple sex partners,
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis,
  • prescription drug misuse,
  • and other illicit drug use. 

Steiner RJ, Sheremenko G, Lesesne C, Dittus PJ, Sieving RE, Ethier KA. Adolescent connectedness and adult health outcomes. Pediatrics. 2019;144(1):e20183766. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3766

School Connectedness | Healthy Schools | CDC

Equity and Impact

School and community connectedness is beneficial to all youth, but not all youth benefit equally.

According to available data, White and non-Hispanic students are significantly more likely than BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students to feel like they matter to people in their community. Also, heterosexual cisgender students are significantly more likely than LGBTQ+ students to feel like they matter to people in their community. There are many reasons for this.

Youth who report experiencing racism, youth from racial and ethnic groups who represent a minority in their community, and youth who identify as LGBTQ+ often feel less connected at school and in their communities. Connectedness strategies play an important role in increasing inclusivity and reducing health disparities.

Having this data available can improve our ability to understand health inequities across multiple marginalized and intersecting populations.

How We Can Improve

The Vermont Department of Health supports strategies that focus on increasing protective factors that help youth make positive connections with peers and supportive adults within their community. This indicator can inform a broad body of work in the Division of Family and Child Health, and several other divisions within the Health Department. Collaboration also includes other departments in the Agency of Human Services (Department of Mental Health and the Department for Children and Families), as well as many essential community partners, like Vermont Afterschool, Inc., and the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program.

An example of successful programs is the Community and school level Positive Youth Development programs (PYD), which works at the community and school levels. PYD programming strengthens young people’s sense of identity, belief in the future, self-regulation, and self-efficacy as well as their social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral abilities. They provide youth with networks of supportive adults and opportunities for connectedness. Unlike many prevention programs that focus solely on risk behaviors, PYD programs aim to develop and enhance positive characteristics of individuals and their surrounding social environment. By increasing protective factors rather than focusing on risk behaviors related to a single adverse outcome, PYD programs have benefits across a range of health and academic outcomes.

Research has also found positive youth development programs to be effective in reducing sexual risk behaviors, HIV, other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), and unintended pregnancy. These programs also have the potential to prevent substance use and violence behaviors that can contribute to HIV and other STD risk. Importantly, these programs are also associated with improvements in academic performance.

Another key strategy for improvement includes fostering opportunities for meaningful youth engagement through:

  • The creation and support of The Vermont State Youth Council and the Vermont Youth Project, in partnership with Vermont Afterschool, Inc.
  • The Personal Responsibility Education Program: Making Proud Choices that supports implementing evidence-based curriculum aimed at teen pregnancy prevention, STI prevention, promoting consent, and inclusive sexual health education. This is an important part of overall adolescent sexual health programming.
  • VT-RAYS (Raise Awareness for Youth Services), a specialty youth group focused on adolescent and young adult public health issues. This group has a particular focus on improving access and utilization of preventive health services.

Notes on Methodology

The target rate of 78.4% was selected as an achievable improvement over the baseline rates of 77.6% in 2019.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is survey administered in Vermont middle and high schools every two years. The survey is sponsored by many organizations across the state, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The YRBS measures the prevalence of behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disease, and injury among youth. Vermont surveys over 30,000 students at each administration. Local data is used by schools, supervisory unions, health programs and other local organizations. The YRBS is completed in over 40 other states and there is a national sample for comparison for most questions. Data will be updated as it becomes available, and timing is based on when results from the survey are released.

When looking at the trend over time, it is important to compare 2021 data to 2019 data with caution. The 2021 survey was given in the fall of 2021 rather than the usual spring schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant those taking the survey were about six months younger than they would have been if the survey was given on schedule. Additionally, while schools were back to in-person learning, there were still major impacts from the pandemic impacting school and home life. 

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