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Parent, guardian job loss may boost smoking among adolescent family members

LOS ANGELES, CA, May 19, 2004 - As if they didn't already have enough to worry about, grownups who lose their jobs may have something else to add to their headaches: According to a new study, their adolescent children have an almost 90 percent greater chance of becoming smokers within a year of the job loss than young people whose families haven't suffered this blow.

"Previous research has shown that stressful life events like divorce and abuse are associated with risky health behaviors," Jennifer B. Unger, the study's lead author, said. "This study extends previous research by identifying a specific life event - job loss in the family - as a health risk factor." The study examined if a family member's job loss could help predict whether an adolescent in that family would begin smoking within the year; the results were published in the May issue of the scientific journal Health Psychology. Unger and her co-authors are researchers with the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC) in the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

"In times of economic and employment instability, many more families could face losing their jobs," Unger said. "It's important that we do more research to understand the impact of job loss and develop interventions to help all family members learn to cope with it without turning to substance use or other behaviors that harm their health."

The longitudinal study focused on 2,016 students from 24 urban, ethnically diverse schools in Southern California who, when surveyed in the sixth grade, indicated that they had never smoked. A year later, as seventh graders, they were surveyed again. The wide-ranging paper-and-pencil survey asked about tobacco use and related psychosocial and cultural variables, including questions about lifetime smoking (Did the student ever try smoking, even a few puffs?) and past 30-day smoking (Did the student smoke on at least one of the 30 days prece
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Contact: Sarah Huoh
jonweine@usc.edu
323-442-3941
University of Southern California
19-May-2004


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