COLUMBUS, Ohio Adding a mental health component to school-based lifestyle programs for teens could be key to lowering obesity, improving grades, alleviating severe depression and reducing substance use, a new study suggests.
As a group, high-school students who participated in an intervention that emphasized cognitive behavioral skills building in addition to nutrition and physical activity had a lower average body mass index, better social behaviors and higher health class grades and drank less alcohol than did teenagers in a class with standard health lessons.
Symptoms in teens who were severely depressed also dropped to normal levels at the end of the semester compared to the control group, whose symptoms remained elevated.
Most of the positive outcomes of the program, called COPE, were sustained for six months.
Thirty-two percent of youths in the United States are overweight or obese, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people age 14 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet most school-based interventions don't take on both public health problems simultaneously or measure the effects of programs on multiple outcomes, said Bernadette Melnyk, creator of the COPE program, dean of The Ohio State University College of Nursing and lead author of the study.
"This is what has been missing from prior healthy lifestyle programs with teens getting to the thinking piece. We teach the adolescents that how they think directly relates to how they feel and how they behave," said Melnyk, also Ohio State's chief wellness officer.
"This program dropped scores of severely depressed teens almost in half. Less than 25 percent of adolescents who have mental health problems get any help, and here we have an intervention that addresses that suffering and also can prevent or reduce obesity."
The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medic
|Contact: Bernadette Melnyk|
Ohio State University