University of Minnesota Medical School researcher Iris Borowsky, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues found that one in seven adolescents believe that it is highly likely that they will die before age 35, and this belief corresponded to more adolescents engaging in risky behaviors.
Borowsky and colleagues analyzed data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 youth in grades 7 through 12 during three separate study years. In the first set of interviews, nearly 15 percent of adolescents predicted they had a 50/50 chance or less of living to age 35.
Those who engaged in risky behaviors such as illicit drug use, suicide attempts, fighting, or unsafe sexual activity in the first year were more likely in subsequent years to believe they would die at a young age. Vice versa, those who predicted that they'd die young during the first interview were more likely in later years to begin engaging in these same risky behaviors and have poor health outcomes. Notably, these teens were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS just six years later, regardless of their sexual preference.
"While conventional wisdom says that teens engage in risky behaviors because they feel invulnerable to harm, this study suggests that in some cases, teens take risks because they overestimate their vulnerability, specifically their risk of dying," Borowsky said. "These youth may take risks because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake."
Nearly 25 percent of youth living in households that receive public assistance and more than 29 percent of American-Indian, 26 percent of African-American, 21 percent of Hispanic, and 15 percent of Asian youth reported believing they would die young—compared to just 10 percent of their Caucasian peers.
"Our findings reinforce the importance of instilling a sense of hope and optimism in youth," Borowsky said. "Strong connections with parents, families, and schools, as well as positive media messages, are likely important factors in developing an optimistic outlook for young people."
She also notes that study findings support physician screening of adolescents for this perceived risk of early death. "This unusually common pessimistic view of the future is a powerful marker for high-risk status and thus deserves attention."
There was no significant relationship between perceived risk of dying before age 35 and actual death from all causes during the six year study period.
"Health Status and Behavioral Outcomes for Youth Who Anticipate a High Likelihood of Early Death," July issue of Pediatrics.
The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Frankenworm: Heads And Brains Of One Species Grown On Body Of Another
- Supersymmetry Is About To Be Discovered, Kane Says
- How The Earth's Pacific Plates Collapsed
- "Imaginary Bullshit Planet" Nibiru - Lens Flares, Sun Mirages, Hoaxes & Just Plain Silly
- Canuckosaur! Not The Name Of The First Canadian Dinosaur, But It Should Be
- No, Earth's Magnetic Field Is Not About To Flip
- Ancient Genomes Reveal Natural Selection In Action
- "I've just done a kind of timeline for Planet X in answer to a question on Quora which may help..."
- "Alas, Prince Charles! His career bears out what G.K.Chesterton said in an interview with the..."
- "The South Pole Telescope was built there because the air is very dry and clear ,making it easier..."
- "There was no conspiracy here, just a coincidence. Harrington's version of Planet X was disproved..."
- "http://writers-web-services.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Planet_X_Magazine.pdf NO SCARY VIDEO..."
- Should the new hep C drugs be used sooner?
- Bilingual patients have better cognitive function post-stroke
- Caveat Comestor: New Yorker Cites ACSH On Cranberry Scare Of ’59
- Does Holiday Feasting Affect Obesity Rates?
- Apple Pie, Mashed Potatoes and Natural Formaldehyde
- New York City coalition made significant progress against colorectal cancer