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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt's Blog

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Rebellious teens used to reach for cigarettes or alcohol. Now, marijuana is increasingly their first choice, a new study reveals.

Columbia University researchers who analyzed national survey data say the "gateway pattern" of substance use is changing. Since 2006, less than 50 percent of teens have tried cigarettes or alcohol before trying marijuana for the first time, the investigators found.

"Alcohol and cigarette use have precipitously declined in adolescent populations for 20 years, while marijuana use has not," said Katherine Keyes, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia's School of Public Health, in New York City.

"The perceived risk of marijuana use to health among adolescents is declining as well, portending potential future increases. In short, the timing of substances in the 'gateway' sequence is changing, as public perceptions about drugs of abuse change," she added in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers analyzed results of 40 annual national surveys of 12th-grade students.

Among teens who said they'd tried both cigarettes and marijuana, the proportion who tried cigarettes before marijuana fell from 75 percent in 1995 to 40 percent in 2016.

The proportion who tried cigarettes in the same school grade as marijuana rose from 20 percent in 1994 to 32 percent in 2016.

Among students who said they'd tried both alcohol and marijuana, the proportion who tried alcohol before marijuana fell from 69 percent in 1995 to 47 percent in 1999.

"Reducing adolescent smoking has been a remarkable achievement of the past 20 years," Keyes noted.

"Now, the more prominent role of marijuana in the early stages of drug use sequences and its implications are important to continue tracking. Its increasing use suggests that marijuana is, and will continue to be, a key target of drug use prevention efforts," she concluded.

The study was published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Source: HealthDay

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.

Does your teenager's personality actually predict how long he or she will live?

Yes, claims new research that finds high school students who tend to be calm, empathetic and intellectually curious are more likely to still be alive 50 years later than their peers who are less so.

The finding does not prove that certain traits in adolescence actually cause people to live longer; it only reveals an association between the two.

But the conclusion stems from an in-depth analysis of personality surveys conducted in 1960, involving nearly 27,000 high school students across the United States. Those results were then stacked up against participant deaths due to all causes over nearly 50 years.

"Essentially, we find that high school students who report adaptive personality characteristics -- things like high levels of calmness and low levels of impulsivity -- have a lower risk of death over the ensuing half century," said study author Benjamin Chapman. He is an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

In addition to calmness and impulsivity, the initial survey gauged teenage levels of social sensitivity; leadership; energetic disposition; self-confidence; tidiness; sociability; intellectual curiosity; and maturity.

Chapman said his team "looked initially at each trait one by one." That meant that calmness was linked to a reduced risk of early death, whether or not the same teen also possessed other protective or risky traits.

Still, "adolescents who are more sociable tended also to be more self-confident, and so forth," he observed, suggesting that some traits tend to group together in the same person.

Chapman also noted that personality traits were assessed on a spectrum, so that each teen was characterized as having relatively high or low levels of a particular trait. And that meant that the degree to which a teenage trait was associated with a lower premature death risk also fell across a continuum.

For example, highly mature teens saw their long-term risk for an early death fall by about 6 percent for every statistically significant move up along the maturity spectrum; it fell by 8 percent for every notable bump in calmness and energetic disposition.

Bigger trait differences would likely produce even more dramatic protective benefits, the study authors suggested.

The findings were published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The initial personality survey asked more than 377,000 high schoolers to complete a battery of psychological tests back in 1960.

Death records dating up to 2009 were obtained for nearly 27,000 of them. By that point, 13 percent had died. The team did not assess specific causes of death.

And regardless of a teen's ethnic or family background, those who scored higher in terms of energy, empathy, calmness, tidiness, intellectual curiosity and maturity -- as well as lower for impulsivity -- faced a lower risk of death over the 48-year period.

"The insight of this work is that characteristics that we think are not particularly helpful in teens for immediate outcomes -- like getting good grades, getting into college, adjusting socially and emotionally to everyday life -- actually can have very long-term health consequences," said Chapman.

"The good news is that people can and often do change," he added. "There are many points in life between high school and a half-century later where chains of negative events can be halted or reversed in a sense."

Source: HealthDay

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Study Finds.

Even though about a third of parents in the U.S. have tattoos themselves, 78 percent with teenaged children would flat-out say “no” if their teen requested one, a new study finds.

University of Michigan researchers questioned more than 1,000 parents about their experiences with teens and body art. While one in ten of the parents surveyed thought tattoos might be fine as a reward or to signify a special occasion, more than half had concerns about unwanted health, social, or professional outcomes.

“As tattoos become increasingly popular across all age groups, more parents are navigating discussions about tattoos with their children,” says pediatrician Gary Freed, who co-directed the survey, in a statement.

The nationally representative poll surveyed 1,018 parents of at least one teen between the ages of 13 and 18. Responses indicate that many of the parents have already faced a tattoo request. Older teens are more likely to pose the question, with 27 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds asking their parents for the nod, compared to 11 percent of younger teens (ages 13 to 15).

Surprisingly, 32 percent of parents surveyed have a tattoo themselves, but just five percent of the teens sport one.

Most parents (63 percent) think of tattoos as another way teens express themselves, akin to dying hair or making a fashion statement. But they are thankful for strong state laws that require parental consent for tattoos in the under-18 group.

The biggest fear of parents is that their child will be sorry they got the tattoo, with 68 percent voicing this concern. Other social-related concerns are how a tattoo might negatively impact employment possibilities (50 percent) and that the parents themselves would be judged for allowing their child to get a tattoo (24 percent).

Parents biggest health concerns involved infection or scarring (53 percent) and the risks for such transmittable diseases as hepatitis or HIV (50 percent).

The topic of teen tattoos is likely here to stay. According to a Pew Research Study cited in a 2017 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 38 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo. The report suggests that pediatricians become better informed so they can talk about potential health risks with teenage patients.

The findings from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health were published in a report released in August 2018.

Source: Study Finds