Health Risk Behaviours Among Adolescents in the English-speaking Caribbean: a Review



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Background: The aim of this paper was to review and summarize research on prevalence of health risk behaviours, their outcomes as well as risk and protective factors among adolescents in the English-speaking Caribbean. Methods: Searching of online databases and the World Wide Web as well as hand searching of the West Indian Medical Journal were conducted. Papers on research done on adolescents aged 10 . 19 years old and published during the period 1980 . 2005 were included. Results: Ninety-five relevant papers were located. Five papers were published in the 1980s, 47 in the 1990s, and from 2000.2005, 43 papers. Health risk behaviours and outcomes were divided into seven themes. Prevalence data obtained for these, included lifetime prevalence of substance use: cigarettes-24% and marijuana-17%; high risk sexual behaviour: initiation of sexual activity . 10 years old-19% and those having more than six partners-19%; teenage pregnancy: teens account for 15.20% of all pregnancies and one-fifth of these teens were in their second pregnancy; Sexually-Transmitted Infections (STIs): population prevalence of gonorrhoea and/or chlamydia in 18.21 year-olds was 26%; mental health: severe depression in the adolescent age group was 9%, and attempted suicide-12%; violence and juvenile delinquency: carrying a weapon to school in the last 30 days-10% and almost always wanting to kill or injure someone-5%; eating disorders and obesity: overweight-11%, and obesity-7%. Many of the risk behaviours in adolescents were shown to be related to the adolescent's family of origin, home environment and parent-child relationships. Also, the protective effects of family and school connectedness as well as increased religiosity noted in studies from the United States were also applicable in the Caribbean. Conclusion: There is a substantial body of literature on Caribbean adolescents documenting prevalence and correlates of health risk behaviours. Future research should emphasize the designing and testing of interventions to alleviate this burden.


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Risk behaviours, Adoloscents, Teenagers, Health Risk Behaviours, Caribbean


Maharaj, Rohan G., Paula Nunes and Shamin Renwick. 2009. “Health Risk Behaviours Among Adolescents in the English-speaking Caribbean: a Review.” Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 3(1): 10 doi: 10.1186/1753-2000-3-10.