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15 Percent of U.S. Teens Think They'll Die Young
Date:6/29/2009

Link between risky behavior and pessimistic outlook surprises experts,,

MONDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Challenging the notion that risky behavior reflects a youthful sense of immortality, a new study has found almost 15 percent of American teens believe they will die before age 35 -- a perspective strongly linked to risky behavior.

"Prior research has shown that typically teenagers are no worse than adults in terms of viewing their own vulnerability, and, thankfully, most adolescents in this country do not believe that their risk of early death is high," noted study author Dr. Iris Wagman Borowsky, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. "But we found that more than one in seven youths do have a pessimistic view about their future mortality and are more likely to take risks."

"So as a pediatrician, this says to me that I need to assess my young patients' ability to see themselves in the future," Borowsky added. "And, when I see a problem, to try to figure out how to instill optimism and hope, knowing that a pessimistic view may be an indicator of future risky behavior."

The findings, published in the July issue of Pediatrics, are based on a three-year tracking of attitudes and behaviors among 20,594 teens who were in 7th through 12th grade at the start of the study.

The teens were interviewed periodically to gauge their views on personal mortality and to tally the degree to which they engaged in such behaviors as attempting suicide, using illegal drugs, sustaining fight-related injuries that required medical care, engaging in unprotected sex, being arrested by the police and contracting HIV or AIDS.

The interviews revealed that nearly 15 percent of the teens believed they had just a 50-50 chance of living to age 35.

Race and wealth appeared to affect the risk for that belief. About 10 percent of white teens bore this pessimistic view, compared w
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