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Anti-Social Behavior And Health

Being a loner or engaging in anti-social behavior could jeopardize your health.

Researchers say an anti-social lifestyle is clearly related to risky behaviors such as substance abuse, reckless driving, truancy, and sexual promiscuity - many of which can directly affect a person's health.

In a letter published in the British Medical Journal, Jonathan Shepard of the University of Wales College of Medicine, and David Farrington of the University of Cambridge, argue that identifying social problems early on is critical to prevent future problems.

They say anti-social behavior is more common in men, so the explanations for such behaviors may be both biological and social. Some factors shown to increase the likelihood of anti-social behavior as an adult include:

  • Anti-social behavior as a child
  • An anti-social family
  • Poor parenting
  • Economic deprivation

But researchers say there are also several turning points that can steer someone away from an anti-social lifestyle, such as:

  • Getting married
  • Getting a job
  • Moving to a better area
  • Joining the armed forces

The report shows that anti-social behavior has been associated with a higher risk of injury and automobile accidents, especially in younger people. Researchers say injuries are also linked to key components of anti-social behavior such as heavy drinking, low job status, and convictions for driving offences.

The authors say the roots of anti-social behavior are planted in childhood, and it usually becomes apparent by ages 8-14 years and peaks by ages 15-19.

That's why intervention programs tend to be most effective when they are directed at young families and schools. For example, education and early family support have been shown to improve parenting skills and foster communication between parent and child. These programs can also reduce child neglect, abuse, and injury, which commonly lead to anti-social behavior.

In addition, researchers say police should target patrols at known hot-spots for violence and arrest repeat offenders of drunk-driving and domestic violence, who are frequently engaged in anti-social behaviors that put, not only their own health, but the health of others, at risk.

For a complimentary view see Social Contacts - Age Gracefully


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