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03 February 2011

Strong community protects adolescents from risky health behaviors

Poor adolescents who live in communities with more social cohesiveness and control get some measure of protection; they're less likely to smoke and be obese as adolescents.

Children who grow up in poverty have health problems as adults. But a new study finds that poor adolescents who live in communities with more social cohesiveness and control get some measure of protection; they're less likely to smoke and be obese as adolescents.

For this analysis, Evans worked with Rachel Kutcher, then a Cornell honors undergraduate, who was interested in studying how community affects health. When the people in the study were about 17 years old, the subjects and their mothers filled out surveys about social capital, a measure of how connected a community is and how much social control there is. For example, the mothers decided how much they agreed that "One of my neighbours would do something if they saw someone trying to sell drugs to a child or youth in plain sight," and the adolescents indicated whether they had adults from whom they could ask for advice. The adolescents also completed surveys on behaviour, including smoking, and had their height and weight measured.

 
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