Study finds age 16 "tipping point" of unhealthy lifestyle
According to researchers, although bad eating habits, alcohol abuse, and sedentary lifestyles take root between 19 to 26 years, they are all cultivated in early adolescence.
Experts theorize that the best course of action to prevent the problem would be to nip it in the bud since changing habits that have already taken hold is a monumental challenge, fraught with road blocks and disappointments.
Lead author of the study, Marta Arrue from the University of the Basque Country in Spain stated, "Bad eating habits, ingestion of alcohol and sedentary lifestyles are all unhealthy life habits that are already being detected in early adolescence and that are especially predominant amongst women and young people between the ages of 19 and 26.
"The prevention campaigns should take very much into consideration these groups at risk and even take into account those less than 13 years.
Lifestyle habits analyzed based on sex and age
The researchers studied 2,018 youngsters from the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country in Spain.
As a part of the study, all the study subjects were asked to fill in several questionnaires.
From the data collected, they analyzed the lifestyle habits of the participants by sex and age in both adolescents from 13 to 17, and young people from 18 to 26.
The analysis revealed that age 16 was crucial because adolescents can either opt for healthy activities or be lured by more risky behavior.
Outcome of the analysis
Marta found that the most dangerous habits were food related, alcohol abuse, sedentary lifestyle, sexual escapades, use of tobacco and drugs, and lastly poor sleep patterns.
It was noted that all the habits cultivated in early teenage years, with the sole exception of sleep deteriorated with the passage of time.
It was noted that women were more inclined towards risky behavior than their male counterparts. Their limitations were sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, sleep, risk of becoming pregnant and sexually transmitted diseases.
In contrast, men were more likely to indulge in alcohol abuse, illegal drugs and unhealthy eating.
The researchers also delved into the link between lifestyle habits and the psychological state of the participants.
It was noted that teenagers with healthy lifestyles have a higher self-esteem, they feel good psychologically, more satisfied with appearance and less psychopathological problems.
Ms Arrue stated, "The results show that adolescents and young people with healthy life habits have higher self-esteem, better psychological wellbeing, greater satisfaction with their bodies and fewer psychopathological indicators.
"A tendency to bad habits is not due to lack of information, as has been borne out by the numerous campaigns undertaken, and so other factors must be involved."