Looking after ourselves?
Many years ago SHEU were invited to a conference of the Asthma Training Centre*, who were in the middle of a big effort to raise awareness of childhood asthma and to train school nurses about the management of asthma in schools. Dr Dave was interested to discover that while medical staff think of well-managed asthma as being keeping the occurrence and severity of symptoms at a minimum, many young people with asthma seemed to have a goal of taking as little medication as possible.
I was reminded of this recently when looking at some research for a client who was interested in the lifestyles of young people with long-term illnesses or disabilities. A simple view of the matter might suggest that if you had an illness or disability, you might be motivated to look after yourself better. However, that wasn't what we saw in the results.
Between 5% and 10% of pupils reported having some sort of disability and about 10% reported some sort of long-term illness.
44% of young people in Year 8 reporting drinking alcohol. For those in the same age group who have a disability or long-term illness the figure was 53%; a similar association
was found in other year groups.
Now, drinking alcohol in itself may not be a cause for concern. However, we also found higher levels of experimentation with illegal drugs among young people with a long-term illness or a disability than among those with no such concerns.
There are many confounding variables here of course, but at face value, it suggests that young people with existing health concerns are more and not less likely to engage in health-risky behaviour. Have they given up on their health, or have they just got a more realistic perspective on the relative risks to their health?
* Regis, D (ed.) (1995). Asthma in the Classroom, Asthma Training Centre. Exeter: SHEU.