Summary: Risky Lifestyle Behaviors in Youths Linked to Depression and Suicide

Youths who engage in more risky patterns of sex and drug behaviors are at a higher risk for depression and suicide. Although risk behavior is associated with elevated depression symptoms for both genders, the likelihood of depression is higher for girls.

  • According to a research article written by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, risky behaviors such as drug use, sexual activity, and depressive symptoms are becoming common among youth. In a 2003 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, about 47% of the 9th- to 12th-grade students surveyed reported previously having had intercourse. 45% of those surveyed reported having previously consumed alcohol and 22% reported having used marijuana just in the previous month alone. About 29% of those polled said that they felt so sad and hopeless over a 2-week period or longer during the past year and that they had stopped participating in their normal activities. Girls were more likely than boys (35.5% vs. 21.9%) to report this measure of depression. According to this study, researchers found that girls and boys who abstained from drugs and sex had equally low (about 4%) rates of depression. In contrast, youths who engaged in more risky patterns of sex and drug behaviors were at a higher risk for depression and suicide. Although risk behavior was associated with elevated depression symptoms for both genders, the likelihood of depression was higher for girls. Researchers have long noted that adolescent problem behaviors tend to cluster and may have the same underlying cause, such as a mental health disorder. Also, links between risky behavior and depression have been documented for both males and females across a broad age range. Researchers in this study noted that engaging in sex and drug behaviors places adolescents, and especially girls, at risk for future depression. Future research is still needed to better understand the relationship between adolescent behavior and depression, and to determine whether interventions to prevent or stop risky behaviors will also reduce the risk of later depression.1

1Which Comes First in Adolescence-Sex and Drugs or Depression?, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2005, pp. 163-169.

  Real Alternatives - LoveFacts.org, all rights reserved 2010 - present