Health Column

January 17, 1990 2 min read

To reduce the number of future smokers, anti-smoking programs should be targeted at children and adolescents in groups that are traditionally less educated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends in a new study.

Although cultural and other factors may determine whether or not someone smokes, the report says, educational attainment has become increasingly important as a marker for potential smokers.

Based on the results of a telephone survey of nearly 20,000 adults over the age of 18, the study concluded that, for those over age 35, the likelihood of being a smoker increased with decreased educational attainment. Among those between the ages of 18 and 34, high-school dropouts and graduates had almost the same rates. Those with more than a high-school degree were far less likely to smoke.

Two new studies discount the theory that teenagers who hear or read about a suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves.

In a study of two teenage-suicide clusters in Texas, conducted by researchers from the cdc, there was no significant correlation found between suicide attempts and exposure to media reports about suicide.

Students were more likely to commit suicide, researchers said, if they had: threatened suicide or damaged themselves previously; known someone who had died violently; broken up with a boyfriend or girlfriend recently; attended several schools and lived in multiple home settings.

Nonetheless, the researchers recommended that “it is prudent to curtail the excesses in public exposure to suicide,” such as romanticized media portrayals, or memorial assemblies at schools.

A second study, completed by researchers from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh school district, and Brookside Hospital in Nashua, N.H., found that students who were close friends of a suicide victim or who had a history of disorders were at increased risk for suicide, but that healthy, casual acquaintances of victims were not.

A typical aids-education program will have little impact on how an adolescent views practicing preventive behaviors, according to a study in the December issue of Pediatrics.

A survey of 448 students from the Oklahoma City area found little change in students’ attitudes toward such preventive measures after they either watched a film or heard a lecture about aids. Students who had heard the lecture, which was identical to the script in the film, learned more than those who had seen the film.

Both programs increased students’ positive attitudes toward people with aids, the study found.--ef

A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 1990 edition of Education Week as Health Column