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

ith 15 percent of Asian youth, 21 percent of Hispanic teens, 26 percent of African American teens and 29 percent of Native American teens.

The study also found that a teen's mental state and behavior were mutually influential. A teen who predicted a short lifespan, for instance, during an early interview was more likely to engage in subsequent risky behavior, and teens who engaged in risky behavior throughout the first year of the study were more likely to develop a pessimistic view of their future.

Borowsky suggested that efforts to prevent such a cycle of skewed perceptions and risky behavior among teens should focus on factors critical to instilling youthful optimism.

"We know that schools matter, and homes and parents matter," she said. "The concept of parents and family connectedness is so important with youth: having fun with your family and having parents you can communicate with and who tell you they love you. And having schools that create a climate where students feel connected and safe is very important. Positive media messages also play a role. These are all things that might prevent the development of a pessimistic view among youth."

Freya Sonenstein, a professor and director of the Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said that addressing the perceptual problems highlighted in the study requires both one-on-one counseling and a recognition of those larger societal issues that could be driving adolescent optimism downward.

"Particularly where there's a high concentration of people who live in poverty -- often minority youth living in blighted neighborhoods with very high violence rates and drug use -- this kind of finding is certainly not surprising," Sonenstein said. "All you have to do is look around in the city of Baltimore, where I am myself, to understand why."

"So it's important to think about
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