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Social Status as a Teen Predicts Health as an Adult
Date:9/29/2009

Research finds those at the top of the pecking order fared the best

TUESDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- For those middle-aged folks who cringe at the memory of their adolescence, new Swedish research suggests that social standing as a teenager has long-term health consequences.

And in a related study, British scientists have found that children whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to engage in unhealthier lifestyles -- including eating less healthy foods and getting less exercise -- than kids whose mothers are at home.

Both studies appear online Sept. 29 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"I think that the results highlight the importance of recognizing that school is not only about performance and grades, but equally so about the social interplay between children," said study author Ylva Almquist, a sociologist at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm.

The researchers studied data from 14,000 children who participated in the Stockholm Birth Cohort Study, which tracked the long-term health of Swedes born between 1953 and 2003. Specifically, Almquist and her team examined levels of popularity, power and status reported by study participants who were in sixth grade in 1966.

Using that information as a personality baseline, the team then examined the students' health records during a 30-year-period from 1973 and 2003, focusing on hospital discharge records. Researchers noted that the students who reported lower levels of social acceptance as young teens tended to have a higher risk of serious health issues as adults; the same was true for males and females.

Specifically, the study found that:

  • Children who were the least popular and powerful at school were more than four times as likely to require hospital treatment for hormonal, nutritional and metabolic diseases as their most popular and powerful classmates.

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