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Substance use: Toward an understanding of its relation to nutrition-related attitudes and behavior among Israeli high school youth

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      Purpose:

      To study the distribution, prevalence, determinants, and association between substance use (e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs) and eating attitudes and behavior of high school students in the Negev region of Israel in order to provide an improved basis for prevention and health services.

      Methods:

      An anonymous questionnaire regarding attitudes and behavior related to substance use and eating (e.g., breakfast before school, a snack or meal during school time, and three meals a day) was answered by 1,513 high school age youth.

      Results:

      The study participants were at greater risk of poor eating behavior if they: (1) used cigarettes, alcohol, and/or illicit substances (p < .01); and (2) were female (p < .01). It was found that girls who used cigarettes were more likely than other young people studied not to eat properly and not to know about the relation between proper eating behavior and personal health (p < .05). Regardless whether cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit substances were used or not used, more than 50% of the youth reported not eating breakfast and 30% indicated they did not eat three meals daily.

      Conclusions:

      There are many concerns about the use and abuse of both licit and illicit substances among adolescents. More attention, however, needs to be given to the relationship between substance use and the attitudes and behavior of young people toward their health, including proper eating habits. The results support the need to develop drug prevention and health programs that are more comprehensive in terms of addressing the broad range of factors associated with adolescent growth and development.

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