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Insufficient sleep associated with risky behavior in teens

Mental health issues, substance abuse, accidents more likely for high school students sleeping less than six hours per night

October 1, 2018

Science Daily/Brigham and Women's Hospital

Researchers examined a national data sample of risk-taking behaviors and sleep duration self-reported by high school students over eight years and found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions.

 

Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, according to sleep experts, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that. Previous studies have demonstrated that insufficient sleep in youth can result in learning difficulties, impaired judgement, and risk of adverse health behaviors. In a new study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital examined a national data sample of risk-taking behaviors and sleep duration self-reported by high school students over eight years and found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions. Results are published in a JAMA Pediatrics research letter on October 1.

 

"We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep," said lead author Mathew Weaver, PhD, research fellow, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally."

 

Compared to students who reported sleeping eight hours at night, high school students who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to self-report using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs, and driving after drinking alcohol. They were also nearly twice as likely to report carrying a weapon or being in a fight. Researchers found the strongest associations were related to mood and self- harm. Those who slept less than six hours were more than three times as likely to consider or attempt suicide, and four times as likely to attempt suicide, resulting in treatment. Only 30 percent of the students in the study reported averaging more than eight hours of sleep on school nights.

 

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveys are administered biannually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at public and private schools across the country. Researchers used data from 67,615 high school students collected between 2007 and 2015. Personal safety risk-taking behaviors were examined individually and as composite categories. All analyses were weighted to account for the complex survey design and controlled for age, sex, race, and year of survey in mathematical models to test the association between sleep duration and each outcome of interest.

 

"Insufficient sleep in youth raises multiple public health concerns, including mental health, substance abuse, and motor vehicle crashes," said senior author Elizabeth Klerman, MD, PhD, director of the Analytic Modeling Unit, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital. "More research is needed to determine the specific relationships between sleep and personal safety risk-taking behaviors. We should support efforts to promote healthy sleep habits and decrease barriers to sufficient sleep in this vulnerable population."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181001114300.htm

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

Surveys over a decade indicate positive behavioral shifts

October 25, 2017

Science Daily/Washington University School of Medicine

In recent years, teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, according to researchers. Teens also are less likely to engage in behaviors like fighting and stealing, and the researchers believe the declines in substance use and delinquency are connected.

 

More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according to results of a national survey analyzed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

 

The data come from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey of 12- to 17-year-olds from all 50 states that is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The data include information from 2003 through 2014, the last year for which survey numbers are available. A total of 210,599 teens -- 13,000 to 18,500 each year -- were part of the study.

 

The findings are reported Oct. 25 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

 

The researchers found that the number of substance-use disorders among 12- to 17-year olds had declined by 49 percent over the 12-year span, along with a simultaneous 34 percent decline in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, assault, stealing, selling drugs or carrying a handgun.

 

The drop in substance abuse among teens parallels findings in other recent surveys, but until now no one has looked at how the drop-off may be linked to other behavioral issues.

 

"We've known that teens overall are becoming less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and that's good news," said first author Richard A. Grucza, PhD, a professor of psychiatry. "But what we learned in this study is that the declines in substance abuse are connected to declines in delinquency. This suggests the changes have been driven more by changes in adolescents themselves more than by policies to reduce substance abuse or delinquent behavior."

 

Other researchers have found that teens are delaying sex and using seat belts more often than their parents and grandparents. Grucza's team focused on substance-use disorders -- involving alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, opioids and the abuse of other prescription drugs or nonprescription drugs -- and delinquent behaviors.

 

"It's not clear what is driving the parallel declines," Grucza said. "New policies -- including things like higher cigarette taxes and stricter anti-bullying policies -- certainly have a positive effect. But seeing these trends across multiple behaviors suggests that larger environmental factors are at work. These might include reductions in childhood lead exposure, lower rates of child abuse and neglect, and better mental health care for children."

 

Although heroin and opioid abuse have become epidemic in many areas of the United States, the use among teens has fallen, according to the survey data.

 

"Opioid problems continue to increase among adults," he said. "But among the 12- to 17-year-old population, we saw a drop of nearly 50 percent."

 

Based on the survey data, Grucza and his team estimated that in 2014 there were nearly 700,000 fewer adolescents with substance-use disorders than in 2003. And because it's possible for a person to be addicted to nicotine while abusing alcohol or marijuana, the researchers estimate the total number of substance-use disorders among adolescents declined by about 2 million.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171025090515.htm

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