Thursday, June 7, 2012

Improving adolescent health will lead to improved adult health

For some health problems, including alcohol misuse and dependence, more than 50% of the first diagnoses are by age 25.  In other words, underage drinking can be a precursor for adult problem drinking.  Healthcare specifically for adolescents, including substance abuse prevention, can play an important role in reducing adult health problems.

From an article appearing in The Atlantic about adolescent health:
Improving the health of adolescents worldwide is the surest route to better health globally, a new study has found. Unfortunately, according to a series in The Lancet, the health status of this age group has not improved as much over the past 50 years as that of children under 10 years of age.

Because of longer periods of time spent in school, delayed marriage, and a new understanding of how long it takes for the brain to fully mature, the period of adolescence has come to be viewed as extending from age 10 to 24 years of age, not from 13 to 18 or 19 as most assume. 

As a group, teens are more frequently exposed to, or participate in, risky behaviors such as alcohol consumption and illegal drug use, and have sex with more casual partners than previous generations. They also face new challenges, such as social media.  

In addition, adolescents are more predisposed than adults to what are dubbed "hot cognitions," meaning they are more affected than adults by exciting or stressful situations when making decisions. These hot cognitions may be associated with increased activity in the nucleus accumbens, a reward and pleasure center in the brain.

The study appears in the online version of The Lancet.

No comments: