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Researchers Track Decline In Health of Adolescents

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Violence continues to cause serious health problems for U.S. adolescents and is a prominent factor in the declining health of that age group, a study published last week says.

Other behavioral, psychological, and social factors also play a large part in contributing to death and disease among adolescents, the study says. Those factors include the use of alcohol and other drugs and the consequences of unprotected sexual activity, from pregnancy to sexually transmitted diseases to aids.

The study, by Johns Hopkins University researchers, was published last week in the annual special issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association that updates research in various medical specialities.

The researchers from the university's school of medicine reviewed three recent studies that document the extent of violence among adolescents and the impact of that violence on their emotional health.

In one survey, one in four respondents ages 10 to 16 said they had been assaulted, kidnapped, or sexually abused in the previous year.

In another, victims of sexual abuse or assault were found to be more likely to engage in other risky health behaviors.

The Parent Factor

Those findings reinforce the need for increased violence-prevention efforts, said the researchers, Dr. Michele D. Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe. Victims of abuse and other violence should be identified so that the resulting emotional trauma can be addressed and to prevent or minimize associated risky behaviors, they said.

In reviewing other literature in the field, the researchers found that parents who communicated with their children, spent time with them, and had a positive relationship with them had children who were less likely to use alcohol and other drugs.

The authors also found that one study showed parents had a strong influence on their daughters' choice of contraceptive: The girls selected the birth-control method their parents recommended for them.

The researchers concluded that newer methods of contraception, such as the Norplant implant and the Depo-Provera injection, combined with intervention programs based in schools and in the community, can significantly cut down the rates of unintended teenage pregnancy.

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