Abstract: Socioemotional Well-Being As an Influential Factor in Health Behaviors Among Urban Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Socioemotional Well-Being As an Influential Factor in Health Behaviors Among Urban Youth

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Nelia Quezada, MSW, Program Director, SUNY University at Albany, Albany, NY
Lani Jones, Ph.D., Professor, SUNY University at Albany, Albany, NY
Background: A significant body of research has established that individuals lacking social supports, self-esteem, and/or coping skills have poor physical health outcomes (House, Landis & Umberson, 1998; Thoits, 2011; Uchino, 2009). Youth living in urban communities are at greater risk of poor mental and physical health outcomes due to lack of access to safe places for physical activity, healthy foods and limited social ties. This study examines the relationship between socio-emotional well-being and health behaviors among youth ages 11 to 19 in a small urban community. This study argues that patterns of socioemotional well-being and social support will influence health behaviors such as fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity. Understanding the relationship between youth socioemotional well-being and health behaviors, and the influence of social relationships may help determine how to improve prevention and intervention programs.

Methods: Data were collected using a Likert-style questionnaire consisting of valid and reliable measures of socioemotional well-being and health behaviors. Socioemotional well-being is established by utilizing items from the following measures: Black Americans National Survey, Cohen & Mermelstein (1983) Perceived Stress Scale, John Henryism Scale for Active Coping and Pearlin’s Mastery Scale. Health behaviors were examined through physical activity and fruit and vegetable guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake were measured using measures of health behavior for youth from the Self-administered Physical Activity Check List (SAPAC) and the PACE+ fruit and vegetable screening measure.

A convenience community sample of youth (N=113) were recruited community and school partnership programs. Most study participants were female (56.6%), identified as Black or African American (56.6%), and 90.3% were between 14 and 19 years of age. Through the use of binary logistic regression, the nature of the relationship between socioemotional well-being and health behaviors, measured through physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake, were assessed.

Results: Preliminary data analysis using frequency distributions of the health behaviors examined showed that 43.6% of participants met the U.S. physical activity guidelines, and 44% of participants met U.S. guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake. Data analysis utilizing binary logistic regression showed that friends and family support was statistically significant (p=.002) in the model predicting physical activity. The model examining fruit and vegetable intake resulted in nearly significant (p= .07) relationship with active coping. Data analysis also showed a significant association between perceived stress and mastery.

Implications: The findings support prior research that youth with a greater sense of mastery are able to manage stressors more effectively and those with strong support networks are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines. These results may be help researchers and program to enhance interventions aimed at improving youth socioemotional well-being. Intervention(s) aiming to improve socioemotional well-being may also increase the youth’s likelihood to meet recommended physical and nutritional guidelines, leading to healthier habits in adulthood.