3 in 4 high schoolers not eating breakfast daily, CDC survey finds


Three in four American high school students said they did not eat breakfast daily in 2021, according to a survey released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marking a record for the biennial survey. 

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey for high schoolers around the country was released as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

It found that “poor dietary behaviors” and shortfalls in physical activity were either as bad, or worse, among high schoolers in 2021 compared to the 2019 survey, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These findings are particularly concerning because of the association between poor dietary behaviors and insufficient physical activity and numerous chronic health conditions and poor mental health,” the authors wrote. 

75% of teens surveyed in the fall of 2021 said they were not eating breakfast daily, up from 66.9% in 2019. That marks a decade of declining daily consumption of breakfast among high schoolers.

While the rates of teens who sometimes skip breakfast varied among demographic groups, no group analyzed by the agency had more than half of high schoolers sticking closely to this recommended meal.

More female high schoolers, 80.1%, reported not eating breakfast daily, compared to males at 69.9%. 

Meanwhile, 83.8% of Black teens surveyed said they did not eat breakfast daily, compared to 61.9% of Asian teens.

Experts and health authorities have long urged parents to ensure their children are eating breakfast daily. The American Academy of Pediatrics says research suggests eating a daily breakfast can curb obesity, boost school performance, and reduce the risk of several health issues linked to poor diet habits in kids.

The share of teens who do not consume fruit and vegetables at least once daily has also worsened. 

47.1% of high schoolers surveyed said they are not eating fruit, or drinking fruit juice, at least once per day, up from 41.8% in 2019. 45.3% were not getting their vegetables at least once per day, climbing from 40.7% in 2019.

Rates of fruit and vegetable consumption varied by ethnicity among high schoolers, similar to previous surveys. However, only two sub-groups saw rates of daily consumption worsen for both fruits and vegetables: White and female students.

By contrast, from 2017 to 2019, both of these indicators were roughly flat among high schoolers overall.

America’s high schoolers are also continuing to fall short on physical activity benchmarks.

Just 23.9% of teens are physically active for at least a recommended hour every day, the survey found, similar to 2019, while several other indicators worsened.

For example, the share of high schoolers who go to physical education classes for five school days per week dropped, from 25.9% in 2019, to 19% in 2021. 

“The prevalence of all five physical activity behaviors was below 50%, and three of these behaviors decreased from 2019 to 2021. This observation was not surprising because of changes in adolescents’ school and extracurricular schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study’s authors wrote.

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