Concerns About Societal Discrimination Leading to Unhealthy Behaviors in Teens

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Many adolescents in Los Angeles are concerned over societal discrimination, and this concern is associated with behavioral health problems 1 year later.
Many adolescents in Los Angeles are concerned over societal discrimination, and this concern is associated with behavioral health problems 1 year later.

HealthDay News — Many adolescents in Los Angeles are concerned over societal discrimination, and this concern is associated with behavioral health problems one year later, according to research published online Aug. 20 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Adam M. Leventhal, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort survey collecting data at 10 high schools in Los Angeles. A total of 2,572 students completed surveys in 11th grade (2016) and 12th grade (2017) relating to concern about increasing discrimination in society and behavioral health outcomes.

The researchers found that with respect to increasing societal discrimination, appreciable numbers of students reported feeling very or extremely concerned (41.5 percent at baseline; 44.6 percent at follow-up), worried (29.7 and 34.7 percent), or stressed (13.9 and 15.5 percent). There was an association for each one standard deviation increase on the societal discrimination concern composite in 2016 with more days of past-month cigarette, marijuana, and alcohol use (incidence rate ratios, 1.77, 1.13, and 1.11, respectively), more substances used (incidence rate ratio, 1.07), and increased odds of depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms (odds ratios, 1.11 and 1.12, respectively) in 2017. There was a correlation for the magnitude of increase in societal discrimination concern from 2016 to 2017 with several behavioral health problems in 2017.

"Adolescents' behavioral responses to recent societal expressions of discrimination may warrant public health attention," the authors write.

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