Food is the new sex

April 29, 2005

Americans who experimented with drugs and sex in the Seventies have sobered up enough to teach their own university-bound children to avoid taking similar risks with their health, according to a new report.

The study by Duke University and the Foundation for Child Development shows that today's American teenagers are getting pregnant less frequently, smoking less and using fewer drugs than previous generations.

The parents of these teenagers were born between 1956 and 1964, the study said, and were teenagers themselves when marijuana and cocaine use was on the upswing in the Seventies and Eighties.

"As a result, they may be more sensitive as parents to the imperative of controlling their children's exposures to the risk of crime, teen pregnancy, smoking, drinking and drug use than were the early baby boomers," the report says.

"Parents who grew up during the Seventies and early Eighties saw first hand, and possibly even experienced, the harmful effects of marijuana and cocaine use," said Kenneth Land, a Duke sociologist. "Because of that, they may be more assertive about controlling their children's behaviour."

Whatever the reason, the results have been dramatic. The number of births per 1,000 adolescent girls fell from 20 in 2002 to fewer than 11 in 2004.

The number of youths aged 12 to 17 who are defined as heavy drinkers fell from about 37 per 1,000 in 1975 to 29 in 2004.

But parents have not managed to keep their kids off food. The level of obesity among American teens, the study found, has offset other gains in health. Obesity among young people has more than tripled from 5 per cent to 16 per cent since 1975.

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