Magazine article USA TODAY

Mental Health Key to Physical Health

Magazine article USA TODAY

Mental Health Key to Physical Health

Article excerpt

Adding a mental health component to school-based lifestyle programs for teens could be key to lowering obesity, improving grades, alleviating severe depression, and reducing substance use, posits a study by Ohio State University, Columbus. As a group, high school students who participated in an intervention that emphasized cognitive behavioral skills-building in addition to nutrition and physical activity had a lower average body mass index, better social behaviors, and higher health class grades--and drank less alcohol--than did teenagers in a class with standard health lessons.

Symptoms in teens who were severely depressed also dropped to normal levels at the end of the semester compared to the control group, whose symptoms remained elevated. Most of the positive outcomes of the program, called COPE--creating opportunities for parent empowerment--were sustained for six months.

Some 32% of youths in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people age 14 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga. Yet, most school-based interventions do not take on both public health problems simultaneously or measure the effects of programs on multiple outcomes, indicates Bernadette Melnyk, creator of the COPE program, dean of the College of Nursing, and lead author of the study. …

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