Seminar Series 2014: Preventive and risk behaviours in youth from a behavioural science perspective

Naomi Keresztes event

Adolescence and young adulthood are important life periods as health-related behavioural patterns are established during these early life phases. Health protective and health-risk behaviors are common correlates of health in later life; health risk behaviours are associated with a considerable increase in adult mortality and morbidity

With the assistance of my colleagues, I have conducted several projects in this research area using self-administered questionnaires. Our data were collected from middle school and university students using randomly selected classes in Szeged, Hungary. We have also collected cross-cultural data. In these studies, trained graduate students administered questionnaires in the selected classes. Our questionnaires included items on socio-demographics, preventive behaviours (physical activity, diet control) and risk behaviours (smoking, alcohol use), sporting habits and motives, social behaviour (e.g. social comparison, social influences, social images, competitiveness) and psychosocial health (e.g. self-perceived health, self-perceived fitness, psychosomatic symptoms, satisfaction-with-life, depressive symptoms).

There are important inequalities in health behaviours among youth which are an outcome of socio-demographic background. We have also found that social influences are important determinants of leisure time physical activity among youth, with significant gender differences being evident. In addition, prototype perceptions are also reliable factors of health related behaviours and our results indicate that exercise prototypes do not vary by gender but are influenced by adolescents’ physical activity status and social context. Our results show that among youth, physical activity behaviour has a significant relationship with value orientation, life goals and psychosocial health.

Our findings provide useful empirical evidence for health promotion programs (e.g. target groups, fostering positive images of physically active peers)

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