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Applying Behavioral Economics to Improve Adolescent and Young Adult Health: A Developmentally-Sensitive Approach

      Abstract

      Each day, adolescents and young adults (AYAs) choose to engage in behaviors that impact their current and future health. Behavioral economics represents an innovative lens through which to explore decision-making among AYAs. Behavioral economics outlines a diverse set of phenomena that influence decision-making and can be leveraged to develop interventions that may support behavior change. Up to this point, behavioral economic interventions have predominantly been studied in adults. This article provides an integrative review of how behavioral economic phenomena can be leveraged to motivate health-related behavior change among AYAs. We contextualize these phenomena in the physical and social environments unique to AYAs and the neurodevelopmental changes they undergo, highlighting opportunities to intervene in AYA-specific contexts. Our review of the literature suggests behavioral economic phenomena leveraging social choice are particularly promising for AYA health. Behavioral economic interventions that take advantage of AYA learning and development have the potential to positively impact youth health and well-being over the lifespan.

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