Adolescent Connectedness and Adult Health Outcomes
For immediate release: Monday, June 24, 2019
Contact: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
(404) 639-8895 | NCHHSTPMediaTeam@cdc.gov
June 24, 2019 – CDC study further suggests family and school support for youth protects against multiple health risks into adulthood
Helping young people feel engaged and cared for at home and at school — also called connectedness — may have substantial health benefits that last well beyond their teenage years, suggests a CDC study published in Pediatricsexternal icon.
The study used data from middle and high school students who were followed into their 20s and 30s. It found that higher levels of connectedness as a teen both at school and at home were associated with as much as a 66% lower risk in areas of mental health, violence, sexual risks, and substance use.
The reduced likelihood in adverse health outcomes in adulthood, included:
- About a 65 percent reduction in lifetime prescription drug misuse and other illicit drug use.
- A 54 percent reduction in ever having been diagnosed with an STD.
- A 51 percent reduction in having been the victim of physical violence in the prior 12 months.
“Our nation’s youth are experiencing several public health crises at once — including STDs, drug overdose, and suicide,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB Prevention. “It is encouraging to know that connecting with teens in the home and classroom can lead to a healthier, happier life for years to come.”
Adolescent connectedness helps protect against major health threats
This new research suggests that experiences in adolescence could be related to some of our most urgent public health issues, including all-time highs of sexually transmitted diseases, and increases in drug overdoses and suicides.
“What happens in middle and high school doesn’t stay in middle and high school. What we experience as adolescents can set us up for success – including avoiding serious health risks like drug use and STDs,” said Kathleen Ethier, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “Given the significant and long-lasting protective effects connectedness can have, it is important to take steps to increase this feeling of belonging at home and at school among youth.”
Promoting connectedness at school and at home
Connectedness refers to a sense of belonging, being cared for, and supported by one’s family, or other people and organizations. Parents, other family members, teachers, and caregivers can foster connectedness by communicating openly and honestly and staying engaged, knowing what is going on in adolescents’ daily lives, and understanding when they might need extra support.
Schools can take specific steps to help promote connectedness among students. CDC supports a wide range of specific interventions that have been shown to be effective, including:
- Supporting student led-clubs at school: These clubs create a safe space for students to socialize, support each other, foster inclusion, and connect with supportive school staff.
- Facilitating positive youth development activities: Offering mentoring programs, providing opportunities to volunteer in the community, or connecting students to community-based programs can strengthen young people’s sense of identity; belief in the future; self-regulation; self-efficacy; and social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral competence. They also provide youth with networks of supportive adults.
- Providing professional development on classroom management: Reinforcing positive behavior through praise and establishing rules, routines, and expectations are classroom management techniques that promote higher levels of school connectedness.
- Supporting positive parenting practices: Schools can provide parents and families with resources that promote open, honest communication and parental supervision and practices that can strengthen adolescents’ connections to family.
“The responsibility of supporting young people through their formative teenage years can be a shared effort between parents, other family, and school staff,” said Riley Steiner, M.P.H., Ph.D., health scientist in CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. “These individuals and many others in a teen’s life can have a profound impact on the adults they will become.”
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