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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Mental Health - Non-Clinical Medicine - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology

Adolescent Expectations of Early Death Predict Adult Risk Behaviors
Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Author: Quynh C. Nguyen et al.

by Quynh C. Nguyen, Andres Villaveces, Stephen W. Marshall, Jon M. Hussey, Carolyn T. Halpern, Charles Poole

Only a handful of public health studies have investigated expectations of early death among adolescents. Associations have been found between these expectations and risk behaviors in adolescence. However, these beliefs may not only predict worse adolescent outcomes, but worse trajectories in health with ties to negative outcomes that endure into young adulthood. The objectives of this study were to investigate perceived chances of living to age 35 (Perceived Survival Expectations, PSE) as a predictor of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt and substance use in young adulthood. We examined the predictive capacity of PSE on future suicidal ideation/attempt after accounting for sociodemographics, depressive symptoms, and history of suicide among family and friends to more fully assess its unique contribution to suicide risk. We investigated the influence of PSE on legal and illegal substance use and varying levels of substance use. We utilized the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) initiated in 1994–95 among 20,745 adolescents in grades 7–12 with follow-up interviews in 1996 (Wave II), 2001–02 (Wave III) and 2008 (Wave IV; ages 24–32). Compared to those who were almost certain of living to age 35, perceiving a 50–50 or less chance of living to age 35 at Waves I or III predicted suicide attempt and ideation as well as regular substance use (i.e., exceeding daily limits for moderate drinking; smoking = a pack/day; and using illicit substances other than marijuana at least weekly) at Wave IV. Associations between PSE and detrimental adult outcomes were particularly strong for those reporting persistently low PSE at both Waves I and III. Low PSE at Wave I or Wave III was also related to a doubling and tripling, respectively, of death rates in young adulthood. Long-term and wide-ranging ties between PSE and detrimental outcomes suggest these expectations may contribute to identifying at-risk youth.
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