Cheerleaders, debate team members, offensive linemen, valedictorians, trumpeters, and yearbook editors. The halls of high schools are filled with an undulating landscape of adolescents all trying to fit in and figure out their place in the world – not an easy task by any measure.
We’ve all been there and can reminisce and relate to the angst that teenagers feel – at some point – throughout the awkward and ever-changing years of puberty and adolescence. Recent research suggests that those who cope and navigate these tumultuous years well have the upper hand in long-term health.
According to a study published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, experts say, teenagers who cope best with the tribulations of teen life, actually grow into healthier adults.
In the first study of its kind, researchers from Northwestern University analyzed a collection of data from 10,147 young people as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data was collected on this set of teenagers in 1994, where researchers asked the teens questions about their physical and emotional health and well-being. Follow-up interviews were conducted in 1996 and 2001.
Researchers were able to draw parallels between teenagers who had an overall sense of positive well-being and better overall health as adults. Researchers also found that teens with high positive well-being were less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, using drugs and eating unhealthy foods as they transitioned into young adulthood.
"Our study shows that promoting and nurturing positive well-being during the teenage years may be a promising way to improve long-term health," said Lindsay Till Hoyt, first author of the study and a fifth-year doctoral student in human development and social policy at Northwestern.
Hoyt and her team measured ‘positive well-being’ in adolescents by examining the data from 1994 and looking at the answers to a series of well-being questions.