Inside the world of dangerous teens

July 2, 2009

Adolescents who think they'll die young don't think twice when it comes using drugs, considering suicide, arrests, or contracting HIV, according to new research.

Adolescents who are convinced they'll die before reaching age 35 anyway don't think twice when it comes to taking risks such as using drugs, considering suicide, arrests, or contracting HIV, according to new research in Pediatrics (July).

The University of Minnesota study researchers polled 20,745 teenagers in grades 7 to 12 about their thoughts of reaching age 35. A full 15% indicated at least a 50% chance they would not make it to that age. Yet, statistics have shown and continue to indicate that chances of dying at such a young age are very small.

When the teens were first interviewed in 2005, the teens who expected to die young were more likely to have attempted suicide, been in a fight, had unsafe sex, or been arrested a year later. They were also more likely to have contracted HIV or AIDS in 2001 or 2002.

The data may encourage physicians to screen this age group for the possibility of participating in harmful activities.

Additionally study findings related to race showed that minority teenagers were more likely to predict dying young (29% of Native Americans, 26% of blacks, and 21% of Hispanics), compared with 10% of whites. Those convinced of an early death were also more often poor.