The Relation between Adolescent Self Assessment of Health and Risk Behaviors: Could a Global Measure of Health Provide Indications of Health Risk Exposures?

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Health Education Journal




Objective: Self-rated health (SRH) has become a key organizing construct for assessing multiple dimensions of populations’ physical and psychosocial health functioning. However, it is unclear how adolescents’ subjective self assessment of health reflects health risk exposures, co-occurring health risks (problem behaviours) and other pre-existing health conditions. It is unknown whether adolescents place more emphasis on mental or physical health functioning in determining overall health.

Methods: We evaluated the association between SRH and a set of behavioural and other psychosocial health risks including pre-existing medical conditions using Colorado Youth Risk Behavioural Survey (2005). We analyzed the data using descriptive statistics and logistic regression models.

Results: Adolescents with behavioural problems were at increased risk of poor health, and in particular females were at a higher risk of poor health compared with boys. However, in sub-group analyses boys with risks of sexual abuses were more likely to report worse health. Current smoking status, perception of body image as overweight and suicidal attempts were the most consistent predictors of poor health among this sampled population.

Conclusions: SRH could be an indicator of health risk in situations where other biomedical information about an adolescent is unavailable. It appears that mental health functioning might be one of the most important factors used to determine the overall health in this population of adolescents. The role of parents and other adult mentors might be crucial in assisting adolescents to make appropriate choices regarding underlying health risks related to overall health functioning.