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Health inequalities, risky behaviours and protective factors in adolescents: An analysis of secondary survey data from the UK

Currie, Katie; Bray, Isabelle


Katie Currie

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Issy Bray
Associate Professor in Public Health (Epidemiology)


Objective: Adolescents are at risk of developing detrimental health behaviours that will affect their adult health. The aim was to estimate prevalence of health risk behaviours (HRB), comparing young people (12–18 years old)in Wiltshire (UK)who are vulnerable (looked after children, special education needs and disabilities, young carers and military dependents)to those who are not vulnerable and assess whether these behaviours are associated with protective factors (e.g. friendship groups). Study design: Secondary analysis of cross-sectional survey data (n = 4129). Methods: In total, 900 vulnerable young people were compared with 3229 non-vulnerable young people. Differences between the two groups were assessed using Chi-squared tests, and associations with possible protective factors were assessed using logistic regression (adjusting for confounding factors). Results: Vulnerable young people have a higher prevalence of smoking tobacco (15% vs 9%, P < 0.001), using cannabis (7% vs 5%, P = 0.03)and self-harming (16% vs 9%, P < 0.001)monthly or more compared with the rest of the Wiltshire adolescent population. Whilst vulnerable young people have many shared protective factors with non-vulnerable young people, there are also differences between the two groups. Conclusions: There are shared protective factors across HRB that can build on the resilience of a young person, impacting their current and future health. Therefore, we should focus our attention on developing protective factors that promote health and well-being, not solely delivering specialist interventions targeted at specific risks. Further consideration should be given to identifying and promoting protective factors specifically for vulnerable people as they have higher levels of HRB and experience protective factors differently.


Currie, K., & Bray, I. (2019). Health inequalities, risky behaviours and protective factors in adolescents: An analysis of secondary survey data from the UK. Public Health, 170, 133-139.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 5, 2019
Online Publication Date May 3, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 4, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 2, 2020
Journal Public Health
Print ISSN 0033-3506
Electronic ISSN 1476-5616
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 170
Pages 133-139
Keywords young people, health risk behaviours, protective factors
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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