October 25, 2007

Lifestyle Choices of Children and Their Effects on Adult Health

Children's lifestyle habits can have severe, negative effects on their future physical and mental health. Many people don't pay attention to the lifestyle choices that significantly increase the risk for health problems; children who engage in sedentary lifestyles, consume high fat diets and use drugs are more likely to have health problems in later life. A new article published by the Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that "psychologists with expertise in children's health and behavior (should) take...a lead role in helping young people develop good lifestyle habits."

In the case of mental health, new research demonstrates that if parents teach their children an optimistic, growth mindset, this results in a reduction in stress, which in turn leads children to have better long-term mental health. Research from Stanford University's Dr. Carol Dweck and University of Pennsylvania's Martin Seligman has brought these important new ideas to the forefront. [More information]

With schizophrenia, we've seen how behavioral choices and/or lifestyle factors such as cannabis use and stress can significantly increase the likelihood of an affliction. The article addresses this issue on a broader spectrum citing the importance of prevention efforts at an early age. It quotes "Kenneth Tercyak, PhD, assistant professor of oncology and pediatrics and member of the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center" as saying:

...the choices that children and teenagers make early in life, and the activities that they engage in, can have serious implications for their physical health and well-being when they grow up...Because these health-compromising behaviors are typically initiated when a person is young, there is a need to more effectively prevent their onset and reform public health approaches to prevention. That is where child health psychologists can help. There is a pressing need to readdress prevention efforts targeted toward our nation’s young people and their families...

Tercyak goes on to say that lifestyle and behavioral prevention programs already exist but without enough focus on the psychology of children. He adds, "...child health psychologists and other advocates for children’s health need to be more involved at all levels of prevention research, applied work, and policy making in helping young people adopt good self-care."

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center, Child Health Psychologists Need To Promote Adult Disease Prevention


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