Selected Health Status Indicators and Behaviors of Young Adults, United States-2003

Article excerpt


This study examined the prevalence of selected clinical preventive health services, health status indicators, health risk behaviors, and health-promoting behaviors among adults aged 18 to 24 years in the general U.S. population. The study analyzed data from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Nearly 30% of young adults lacked health care coverage. When 21- to 24-year-olds were compared with 18- to 20-year-olds, a 32% increase was noted in current cigarette smoking, a 37% increase in current binge drinking, a 48% increase in current alcohol use, a 27% increase in overweight and obesity, and an 8% decrease in engaging in sufficient physical activity. Results from this study reveal several areas for concern regarding the health of young adults. Continuation of education beyond high school and being married are associated with some health benefits. Carefully crafted health promotion programs and appropriate policies need to be placed in locations that are accessed by this population.


The changing social roles and responsibilities characteristic of young adulthood (ages 18-24) often are accompanied by lifestyle changes that are associated with negative health outcomes. (1) For example, behavior changes previously documented during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood include decreased physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, (2) increased fast food consumption, (3) and increased alcohol use, (2,4-6) tobacco use, (2,3,5,6) illicit drug use, (3,6) and participation in high-risk sexual behavior. (2) The increase in risk behaviors during this life stage is of particular concern since it can lead to immediate negative health consequences and increase the risk of chronic disease later in life.

Despite the pivotal nature of young adulthood, the transition from late adolescence to adulthood has been understudied. Often, studies are conducted with adults without distinguishing young adults aged 18-24, even though this is a unique life stage. Studies that have focused on young adults tend to be narrow in scope, including only specific subpopulations, such as women (7) or college students, (7-13) or have focused on a specific behavior, such as smoking. (4,14) A recent article provided a review of existing nationally representative data on health status and selected behaviors of young adults. (6) Following their review, the authors stated that there is a paucity of data for young adults on specific health behaviors and protective factors, and the authors therefore called for additional research on these topics.

The purpose of this study is to examine the prevalence of selected clinical preventive health services, health status indicators, health risk behaviors, and health-promoting behaviors among young adults aged 18 to 24 years in the civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population, using data from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Prevalence estimates are examined by sex, race/ethnicity, age category, educational attainment, and marital status. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) are calculated to identify the independent associations of each demographic characteristic with behavior and health outcomes.


Data Source

Data from the 2003 BRFSS were analyzed. The BRFSS is an ongoing random-digit-dialed telephone survey operated by state health departments in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The survey is conducted in each state and the District of Columbia to collect data on many of the behaviors and conditions that place adults (aged [greater than or equal to] 18 years) at risk for chronic disease. BRFSS uses a multistage design to select a representative sample from each state's noninstitutionalized civilian adult population. Individuals living in group homes (e.g., sorority and fraternity housing), vacation homes, and institutions (e. …


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