Youth who have a greater sense of ‘connectedness’ are far less likely to get an STI or misuse drugs as adults.
Connectedness refers to a young person’ feeling of care, support and belonging both at school and at home.
A new study byshowed young people who felt more connected as teens are 54% less likely to get an STI when they are adults. It also found a 65% reduction in lifetime misuse of prescription drug use other illicit drugs.
Connected teens also had a 51% reduction in being a victim of physical violence in the prior 12 months.
They also have significantly better outcomes in other areas of sexual health, mental health, violence, and substance misuse.
‘Our nation’s youth are experiencing several public health crises at once — including STDs, drug overdose, and suicide,’ said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STDs, and TB Prevention.
‘It is encouraging to know that connecting with teens in the home and classroom can lead to a healthier, happier life for years to come.’
The CDC called on schools and families to stay engaged and practice open communication with teens to know when they might need extra support.
‘What happens in middle and high school doesn’t stay in middle and high school. What we experience as adolescents can set us up for success – including avoiding serious health risks like drug use and STDs,’ said Kathleen Ethier, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.
‘Given the significant and long-lasting protective effects connectedness can have, it is important to take steps to increase this feeling of belonging at home and at school among youth.’
The National Coalition of STD Directors (NSCD) said this was even more important for LGBTI youth. LGBTI people tend to have worse mental health outcomes and are at higher risk for STIs and drug use than their straight counterparts.
‘STDs are at all-time highs in the US, and young people account for more than half of all new diagnoses,’ said David C. Harvey, executive director for the NSCD.
‘ This study shows that supporting young people through their teenage years is critical for preventing STDs in this generation today and tomorrow.
This is especially important for LGBTQ youth, who often feel isolated at home and at school and who face disproportionate risk for STDs.
‘NCSD calls on Congress to fully fund CDC’s work on adolescent and school health and STD prevention to protect the health of today’s teens and future generations.’