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Health seriously declines, disparities increase as youths become adults

Can becoming an adult be hazardous to your health? A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Carolina Population Center indicates that may be the case, with leading health indicators showing serious declines as adolescents become adults.

A survey involving an ethnically diverse and nationally representative sample of 14,000 young people found diet, inactivity, obesity, health-care access, substance use and reproductive health to worsen with age. Only self-perceptions of personal health, including mental health, and exposure to violence improved with age.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The declines in health indicators spanned both sexes and all racial and ethnic groups. The study compared the health of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics and American Indians. All groups showed significant declines in health from adolescence into young adulthood.

The report used a unique source of data, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which follows a national sample of more than 14,000 adolescents through their transition into young adulthood. Most previous studies of health disparities have used data collected at a single time point.

"This is the first longitudinal study to track the developmental trends in health disparities among a national cohort of young people with new findings showing a general decline in health during the transition to adulthood," said the lead author Dr. Kathleen Mullan Harris, Gillian T. Cell distinguished professor of sociology at UNC, a fellow at the Carolina Population Center and director of the Add Health study.

UNC has been the home base for Add Health since its initiation in 1994 with federal funding.

Add Health survey participants were recruited from high schools and middle schools nationwide. They were f
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Contact: Leslie H. Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
11-Jan-2006


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