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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Children's Health Channel
Reported November 23, 2012

Teen Popularity Affects Adult Smoking Habits

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – What if how popular you were in school continued to affect your life years later? Well, it turns out having more friends may lower the chances of becoming a regular to heavy smoker in adulthood according to a recent Swedish study. 

The study discovered the link between peer-status in school and adulthood smoking habits by following more than 15,000 people in Sweden from birth to middle age through a large database. A selected group consisting of 2,329 Swedes were interviewed at age 13 about peer-status at school and then at age 32 about their smoking habits. 
To maintain objectivity in the study, the 13 year olds did not rate their own status amongst their peers at school but rather were asked to choose three people from school that they best liked to work with. How many times a particular student was selected by their classmates was then translated into a peer-status level; students selected zero times were considered to be marginalized while those selected seven or more times were deemed the “class favorites.” 
Researchers found that the students who were selected only a few times or less by classmates were more likely to become a heavy or regular smoker in adulthood than their popular counterparts. 
Why marginalized students are more likely to become smokers is not definitely known, but it could be due to lower-status students taking up smoking while they are still in school in an attempt to get attention or become more popular. Once they become adults, they may be addicted to smoking by that time and continue the habit.
Another possible reason for this link may be that popular adolescents and teens try to conform to expectations of good behavior while the marginalized students are more likely to behave in controversial ways. 
Whatever the cause, these findings show that anti-smoking programs would be more effective in preventing students from smoking if they promoted acceptance amongst students. Not only would this lower the number of students who become adult smokers, but it would also benefit those students with fewer friends in many other ways. 
Hopefully this new knowledge will lead to better methods of helping the marginalized, because the term ‘it’s just high school’ is not so reassuring. 
Source: Study from the Stockholm University in Sweden, November, 2012
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