Research Paper: Adolescent Health

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Adolescent Health

Factors affecting adolescent health

The aspects of adolescent health that this paper will focus on are the patterns of behavior and lifestyle choices that affect the health of the young individual. There are a wide range of interconnected variables that impact this area of concern. The following discussion will focus of some of the most cogent of these patterns and influences and endeavor to provide an overview of this research area.

Adolescence is a period of development and transition not only in a psychological sense but also in terms of physical health. Decisions, life choices and patterns of behavior that occur at an early age tend to have medium and long-term consequences for the health of the adolescent into adulthood. There are many factors and variables that can impact both positively and negatively on the health of the adolescent. These can range for extreme events such as accidents and physical violence to sexual abuse, substance abuse and eating habits.

The importance of understanding these variables is underlined in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that, "…results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes" (Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth). This means that if we understand these factors and variables that have the greatest negative effect on the healthy development of the individual in society, healthcare strategies and protocols to reduce the effect of these factors can be developed. This also applies to the promotion of factors that promote healthy Adolescence.

This paper will therefore attempt to discuss some of the most prevalent and common factors that affect health in this demographic in developed countries like the United States.

Research Methodology

The research methodology that was applied in this study was an inclusive, extensive and comparative overview of the literature on the subject. Various sources were consulted. These included books and articles as well as online databases and verified websites such as the CDC. One of the important sources of information that was used is the data and statistics from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System "…monitors priority health-risk behaviors and the prevalence of obesity and asthma among youth and young adults" (YRBSS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System). The YRBSS is a national school-based survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Eating Habits and Obesity

One of the most serious health issues in developed countries like the United Sates with regard to childhood and adolescence is the increasing problem of obesity. Obesity and its concomitant health problems is seen in an extremely serious light by the health profession. It is considered to be "…the most common prevalent nutritional disorder of U.S. children and adolescents, and one of the most common problems seen by pediatricians"( Childhood Overweight. NASO).

The problem of obesity in the United States has, according to many experts, reached epidemic proportions. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that "Obesity is catching up to tobacco as the leading cause of death in America. If this trend continues, it will soon overtake tobacco…" (CDC Predicts Inactivity, Unhealthy Eating to Overtake Cancer by 2004). According to other experts there has been a doubling of the number of obese people in the United Sates over the past twenty years (Kreulen). However, what is of even greater concern is the finding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the percentage of overweight adolescents has tripled during the same period ( Childhood Obesity).

Figure 1: The following table provides details about the increase in the prevalence of juvenile obesity in the United States over a period of thirty years. Obesity was assessed according to BMI percentiles.

Gender

Age Group (years)

% Increase in Prevalence

Girls

6-11

Girls

12-17

69

Boys

6-11

Boys

12-17

(Source: W.H.O from Bar-or, O. 2003)

The prevalence of children and adolescence aged six to nineteen years of age is illustrated in the following chart.

Figure 2.

(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm)

One of the reasons given for this serious situation is that there has been a decline in the emphasis in physical education in American schools. A recent survey by the American Obesity Association (AOA) shows the decline public school physical and health education is directly related to the increase in obesity. "Decreases in both mandatory and elective physical education courses at K-12 schools have been well-documented in the professional literature and, more recently, in the popular media, and parents are beginning to take note of this trend "(Child Obesity-What Can Schools Do?. 2001).

The dimensions of this problem are exacerbated by the fact that obesity is often found in very young children, which has a concomitant impact on their health as they develop into adolescence. These effects can include heart disease, asthma and other related conditions. An important factor in understanding the links between various health factors is that obesity can also have psychological consequences and a negative impact on the self-esteem of the developing adolescent.

Substance Abuse

Central to the development of a healthy lifestyle is the avoidance of toxic substances that can retard normal development in the adolescent. Tobacco products are one of the most commonly used substances among adolescents. Not only is this substance the leading preventable cause of death in the United Sates, but it has a wide range of negative effects, including being linked to cancer and emphysema. The statistics with regard to the use of this dangerous substance among the youth in America is alarming.

Each day in the United States, approximately 3,600 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 years initiate cigarette smoking, and an estimated 1,100 young people become daily cigarette smokers" and " in 2009, 19% of high schools students reported current cigarette use and 14% reported current cigar use. ( Tobacco Use and the Health of Young People )

Figure 3.

Current Cigarette Use Among High School Students, 20093

Racial/Ethnic Group

Male

Female

Overall

Black (Non-Hispanic)

10.7%

8.4%

9.5%

Hispanic

19.4%

16.7%

18.0%

White (Non-Hispanic)

22.3%

22.8%

22.5%

( Source: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/tobacco/facts.htm)

It is well know that smoking from an early age creates a pattern of abuse that often result in lung cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and bladder.

Cigarette smoking among adolescent has also been linked to even more dangerous forms of substance abuse. Alcohol is widely used by adolescents and is described as a major health problem in this demographic. The statistics in this regard are a cause for alarm in terms of healthy adolescent development. "Alcohol is used by more young people in the United States than tobacco or illicit drugs" ( Alcohol & Drug Use).

Alcohol is also linked to drug usage and this also forms a pattern of behavior in adolescents that can have a profoundly damaging effect on physical as well as mental development. The use of both alcohol and drugs is also linked to other damaging and even life-threatening factors; for example, "Among youth, the use of alcohol and other drugs has been linked to unintentional injuries, physical fights, academic and occupational problems, and illegal behavior" ( Alcohol & Drug Use). This is also exacerbated by the fact that alcohol abuse over a period of time can lead to liver disease as we well as possible neurological damage and psychiatric problems.

Psychological Factors

As the above discussion has indicated, poor choices made for or by the adolescent in the early years of development can have an adverse affect on development and health. This can be seen in the aforementioned abuse of drugs which can lead directly to psychological issue such as depression, anxiety as well as antisocial personality disorder. For example, there are a number of studies that discuss the relationship between adolescent obesity and psychopathology. The Relationship between Childhood Onset Obesity and Psychopathology in Adulthood by Mills and, Andrianopoulos (1993) provides some very informative views on the relationship between childhood obesity and the later development of psychiatric problems and psychopathologies. This study suggests that obesity in adolescence can have a negative effect on later development. Obesity has also been linked to problems of self-esteem and self-perception as well as psychological trauma. An article that extends the research into the area of the correlation between obesity, self-perception and psychological trauma is a 2006 study entitled, Psychological Status and Weight-Related Distress in Overweight or at-Risk-for-Overweight Children by Young-Hyman et al.

Conclusion

Adolescence is a period of change and transition and various factors can affect the health of the individual during this sensitive period of development. It is during this period that patterns of behavior are established that affect present as well as future health. This includes various choices that are made by the individual, such as the choice to smoke or take drugs. However, it should also be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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