Defining and understanding healthy lifestyles choices for adolescents.

Journal of Adolescent Health

PubMedID: 15193571

He K, Kramer E, Houser RF, Chomitz VR, Hacker KA. Defining and understanding healthy lifestyles choices for adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2004;35(1):26-33.
PURPOSE
To: (a) establish criteria for defining positive health behaviors and lifestyle; and (b) identify characteristics of adolescents who practice a healthy lifestyle.

METHODS
Responses from a 1998 survey via questionnaire, of 1487 students, from a public high school, Cambridge, Massachusetts, were used to assess correlates of healthy lifestyle choices. Strict and broad assessments of healthy behaviors were defined for students: use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs; sexual behavior; attempted suicide. Whereas the "strict" criteria included only those adolescents who did not practice any of the behaviors in question, the broad criteria reflected experimentation and moderate risk-taking. The prevalence of positive behaviors was assessed by demographic and student characteristics. In addition, logistic regression models were created to predict determinants of teenagers' healthy lifestyles using both strict and broad definitions.

RESULTS
Using strict criteria of healthy lifestyle, significant predictors were being female, born outside the United States, higher academic performance, and fewer stressful life events. Using a broad definition of a healthy lifestyle, significant predictors were being non-Caucasian, in the lower grade levels at the school, higher academic performance, and fewer stressful life events. In both models, peers' approval of risky behaviors negatively influenced teens' lifestyles, whereas parents' disapproval of risky behaviors was a positive influence.

CONCLUSIONS
These results reinforce the importance of school, peer, and parent support of positive behaviors. It is important for public health workers and families to understand and define healthy lifestyles choices for adolescents.