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Health Drops When Teens Hit 20s

来源:www.webmd.com 作者:DanielDeNoon 2006-6-27
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摘要: 12, 2006 -- Warning: Becoming an adult can be hazardous to your health。That alarm comes from a huge government-funded study that began in 1994 with researchers conducting interviews with more than 14,000 teenagers。Now that these teens are young adults, more than their age has changed。 These 20......


Jan. 12, 2006 -- Warning: Becoming an adult can be hazardous to your health.

That alarm comes from a huge government-funded study that began in 1994 with researchers conducting interviews with more than 14,000 teenagers. This nationally representative group of kids -- from all sorts of ethnic, racial, and social backgrounds -- is now in its 20s.

Now that these teens are young adults, more than their age has changed. These 20-somethings are more willing to gamble their health than they were when they were teenagers, find Kathleen Mullan Harris, PhD, and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We find there are general declines in a wide array of health indicators as a person enters young adulthood," Harris tells WebMD. "Obesity goes up. Diet worsens and exercise goes down. Access to health care and health insurance goes down. Risky health behavior -- such as smoking, binge drinking, and getting sexually transmitted diseases -- goes up."

The Harris team's current report, among the first from this treasure-trove of teen health data, appears in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Young Adults: Just a Stage?

The study, called the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health or Add Health, was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). It's the first major study to gather data on normal teens into their adult years.

The current report reveals that young adulthood is a time of significant health risk, says Christine Bachrach, PhD, chief of the NICHD demographic and behavioral sciences branch.

"Health behavior, access to health services, and some health conditions are worse in early adulthood than in teens," Bachrach tells WebMD. "We should not forget about kids once they make the transition to early adulthood. They remain very vulnerable during this life period."

It is no secret that young adults, suddenly free of parental restraints, tend to take risks. Harris says this is normal human development.

"This is the life stage when young people experiment with different lifestyles," she says. "But what is surprising is this is going on just across the board for all ethnic and racial groups. Certainly things like cigarettes and drinking can affect one's long-term health. But if this is just a phase, and the young people know they are not going to behave this way all their life, the consequences won't be as severe if they don't continue."

It's likely harder to quit smoking or to cut back on drinking than young adults think it is. Even if young adults later change their lifestyle, there is a health price to pay.

"Unhealthy behaviors at any age take a toll on health," Bachrach says. "You may not immediately see the results for many years hence, but the effects are there and they accumulate over time. So the longer people go on engaging in poor health behaviors, the more likely they are to suffer adverse consequences."

New Generation, New Risks

Every generation must transition from the teen years to young adulthood. But the risks aren't the same from generation to generation.

One of the scariest new risks is among the most common: obesity. The study shows that young adults are even more likely to be obese, more likely never to exercise, and more likely to eat fast food than they were as teens.

"Some of the behavioral things are just people going through developmental stages. These things don't worry me so much," Harris says. "What does worry me is the poorer diet and less exercise and more weight gain. This can set people on paths that will make things difficult for the rest of their lives. Young adulthood is when obesity begins."

In every generation, young adults tend to eat better, drink less wildly, and have better access to health care as they enter into lasting relationships and take on jobs that provide health insurance. This used to happen in early adulthood. Now, Bachrach says, it happens later.

"Traditionally, people were marrying, getting stable jobs, and beginning their lives' work as young adults," she says. "That is not happening anymore. Marriage is happening much later. There is much more instability in the young adult years than there used to be."

What's going to happen to these 20-somethings? Harris says we'll find out. She has just received funding to continue the study.


SOURCES: Harris, K.M. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, January 2006; vol 160: pp 74-81. Kathleen Mullan Harris, PhD, professor of sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and fellow, UNC Carolina Population Center, Chapel Hill, N.C. Christine Bachrach, PhD, chief, demographic and behavioral sciences branch, National Institute of Child Health and Development, NIH, Bethesda, Md.


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