Happy Teenager Becomes Healthy Adult
Health interventions, games, school programs, they all have the same goal: creating healthy young people. Most interventions focus on healthy eating and physical exercise, but is that really enough? According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, health interventions should focus more on youths’ mental states. Teenagers who are happy and positive become healthier adults than teenagers who are less happy. Happy teenagers also take fewer health risks like smoking and drinking when they grow up.
- Young adults who were happy and positive teenagers (felt socially accepted, loved, proud, happy, hopeful etc.) feel very healthy, whereas young adults who were less happy during their teenage years, (felt bothered, blue, depressed, lonely, sad, disliked etc.) feel less healthy.
- Not only do they feel more healthy, those adults who were happy teenagers also show less unhealthy behaviors, like eating fast foods, binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and drug use.
- Developers of health interventions should be aware of the importance of positive well-being during adolescence. When targeting health interventions to teens, it’s wise to stimulate and promote that positive well-being.
Are positive teenagers healthier when they become young adults and do they also take fewer health risks?
At the start of the study: 20,745 11-to 20-year-olds (mean age: 14 years old; 50% boys and 50% girls; 68% of the children are white). By the end of the study: 10,147 young adults.
United States, national sample
This study uses data from the first three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health): a nationally representative study of adolescents from 80 high schools in the United States. The adolescents were interviewed twice during the mid 1990s and then again in 2000/2001. During home interviews, they answered questions about emotional well-being (happiness, enjoyment of life, hopefulness about the future etc.) and about health (physical activity, fast food consumption, binge drinking, cigarette smoking, drug use etc.)
Facts and findings
- Young adults who had experienced a positive and happy adolescence (i.e. felt socially accepted, loved, proud, just as good as others, happy, hopeful etc.), felt healthier than young adults who had been less positive during their teenage years.
- Young adults who had experienced depressive symptoms during adolescence (i.e. felt bothered, blue, depressed, lonely, sad, disliked etc.) felt less healthy than young adults who had less depressive symptoms during adolescence.
- Young adults with a happy adolescence also took fewer health risks (eating fast food, binge drinking, cigarette smoking and using drugs) than young adults who were less positive during adolescence.