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Unhealthy Teens More Isolated, Have Weaker Social Networks

Poor health in adolescents tied to smaller social circle, peripheral role in network

MONDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Unhealthy adolescents are more likely to have a small social circle and to be on the periphery of that circle, according to a study in the Dec. 3 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Steven A. Haas, Ph.D., of the Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleagues hypothesized that poor health in adolescents is associated with having fewer relationships. The researchers used 1994 to 1996 survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to analyze the health impact on the social networks of a sample of 2,060 adolescents from 16 schools.

The researchers found that children in poor health were more likely to be socially isolated and have smaller social networks than healthy children; they were also less centrally positioned in the network hierarchy. However, contrary to the researchers' hypothesis, there was no difference in network density, which they said suggested a small network of friends and weaker friendship ties.

"Future research would be wise to examine the potential mediating role of social networks in health-related selection into lower educational strata. In addition, peer relationships may be an important point of intervention to improve the social functioning and academic outcomes of children and adolescents with health problems," the authors write.

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