The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and REACH Evaluation recently released the results of the 2021 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) survey, taken by 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders in 127 of Kentucky’s 173 school districts. Important note that Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) did not participate in the 2021 survey. The KIP survey is generally given every two years, on even numbered year, however due to the pandemic, the 2020 survey was delayed and administered in October 2021.  

The KIP survey is Kentucky’s largest source of data related to youth use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as several additional factors related to youth social and emotional well-being. 

The results of the 2021 survey echo recent KIDS COUNT trends across the nation and the Commonwealth around youth mental health concerns. The KIP survey asked students about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health, current mental health concerns, and protective factors such as connections to a caring adult. The 2021 survey results showed:  

  • 38.3% of Kentucky 10th graders reported poor mental health most of the time or always during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some regions reporting as high as 42.4%.  
  • Nearly one in six (16%) of Kentucky 10th graders reported suicidal ideation in the past 12 months.  
  • 13.6% of Kentucky 10th graders reported not knowing an adult with whom they could talk or go to for help.  

Additionally, we know that discrimination is an established risk factor for poor mental health. The 2021 iteration of the KIP survey included a critical new question to address student race-based experiences and concerns. Black and Asian students were most likely to report being treated differently because of their race, fear for their friends’ or family’s safety because of their race or culture, and experiencing stress because they worried they would be a target of racism. 

The KIP survey also gives insight into the beliefs and behaviors of Kentucky students around alcohol, drug, and tobacco use.

  • The 2021 survey found that students’ reported use of these substances was higher during the pandemic than previously, including nearly 14% of Kentucky 10th graders who reported more tobacco/nicotine use during the pandemic, which includes vaping. 
  • The survey also highlighted a continued need for education around the dangers of these products, as more than one in three (35%) of Kentucky 10th graders reported thinking there was no risk or only slight risk in using vapes/e-cigarettes.  

The KIP survey is an important tool to understand the trends in youth behaviors and social and emotional wellbeing throughout the Commonwealth. The results from this survey provide opportunities for us to find tangible solutions to ensure our students are ready to learn and thrive.

View the Statewide Trends Report and Regional Data Report to learn more about the KIP survey and the 2021 results.