Summary: Risky Lifestyle Behaviors in Youth Extend into Adulthood

Risky lifestyle behaviors, which contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among youth and adults, often are established during childhood and adolescence, extend into adulthood, are interrelated, and are preventable.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a series of surveys between 1991 and 2005 to study health-risk behaviors that lead to morbidity ad mortality among young adults. The CDC published the result of their surveys in a June 2006 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report. Their survey, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), was conducted between October 2004 and January 2006. Six categories were monitored: behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and physical inactivity. The YRBSS found that 71% of youth and young adult deaths were due to motor-vehicle crashed, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. 61% of deaths in adults age 25 and over are due to cardiovascular disease and cancer, which would be related to risky youth behaviors studied in the survey. The study also found that substantial morbidity and social problems among youth result from unintended pregnancies and STIs, including HIV infection. Additionally, the study found various shocking results in the behaviors that young adults were involving themselves in. During the 30 days preceding the survey, 28.5% of students nationwide had ridden one or more times in a car driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol, 9.9% of students had driven a car one or more times after they had been drinking alcohol, 13.4% had smoked at least one cigarette every day for the last 30 days, 43.3% had had at least one drink of alcohol, and 20.2% had used marijuana. Furthermore, 16.0% of students had smoked a whole cigarette for the first time before the age of 13. Also before the age of 13 years old, 25.6% had drunk alcohol, and 8.7% had tried marijuana. Many of the variables have decreased steadily from 1991-2005, however it is clear that teens are still engaging in risky and dangerous behaviors that deserve serious attention.1

1Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2005, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vol. 55, No. SS-5, June 9, 2006, pp. 1-33.

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