Health Behavior Changes in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Implications for Cardiometabolic Risk

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Abstract

Objective: Adolescence and young adulthood produce developmentally salient and contextual challenges for health behavior choices. The present study examines how changes in physical activity, nutrition, and sleep duration before and after high school graduation influence cardiometabolic risk (CMR) in adulthood (at ages 22–29). Method: Youth (N = 662; Time 1 ages 12–18; 48% male) were followed biannually across 10 years. Piecewise latent growth curve modeling was used to assess how changes in physical activity, nutrition, and sleep duration before and after high school influence CMR in young adulthood, accounting for baseline levels of each health behavior. Sex differences in associations were examined. Results: Higher initial (baseline) levels of physical activity and nutrition predicted lower CMR. Increases in physical activity and nutrition before and after high school also contributed to lower CMR. When examined simultaneously, initial levels of physical activity and sleep duration (for female participants only) and increases in nutrition had independent effects on CMR. Conclusions: Prevention approaches that take into account the salient developmental and contextual differences in adolescence and young adulthood may improve efforts to prevent CMR.

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