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New Risk Factor for Teen Smoking Found

Family job loss may increase chances of starting habit for adolescents

MONDAY, May 31, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Parent or guardian job loss may play a powerful role in pushing teens to start smoking, says a University of Southern California study in the May issue of Health Psychology.

The study of 2,016 students in Southern California found that adolescents in families where adults lost their jobs were almost 90 percent more likely to start smoking within a year of the job loss than those in families that didn't experience job loss.

"Previous research has shown that stressful life events like divorce and abuse are associated with risky health behaviors. This study extends previous research by identifying a specific life event -- job loss in the family -- as a health risk factor," study author Jennifer B. Unger said in a prepared statement.

The students in the study were first surveyed in the sixth grade. None had ever smoked. They were surveyed again in the seventh grade.

Among students who reported a job loss in the family since the first survey, 87 percent were more likely to have tried smoking or to have smoked within the previous 30 days than students who did not report any job loss in the family.

The study also found a lower risk of smoking among students who did well in school, had good communication with their parents, were monitored by their parents, or were Asian.

"In times of economic and employment instability, many more families could face losing their jobs. It's important that we do more research to understand the impact of job loss and develop interventions to help all family members learn to cope with it without turning to substance use or other behaviors that harm their health," Unger said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers advice to teens about smoking.

SOURCE: University of Southern California, news release, May 2004
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