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Adolescents' Health Literacy and Decision-making: A Qualitative Study

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Objective: Adolescents assume increased responsibility for their health, particularly regarding health decision-making for lifestyle behaviors. Prior research suggests a relationship between health literacy (HL) and health behaviors in adolescents. Yet, the specific role of HL in adolescents' health decision-making is unclear. This study qualitatively explored adolescents' use of HL in their health decision-making. Methods: Six focus groups with adolescents (N = 37, Mage = 16.49, 86% girls) were conducted. Adolescents' responses to questions about their HL use were coded using thematic analysis. Results: Adolescents identified passive and active HL engagement and several individual (eg, future orientation, risk perception) and environmental (eg, access to resources/information, media) factors that influenced their use of HL in health decision-making. Feedback from others, subjective health, and ability to navigate multiple sources of information also determined adolescents' confidence in their HL skills. Conclusions: Our results support expanding the types of HL studied/measured in adolescents and provide insight on how HL can be leveraged to improve adolescents' health decision-making. Though there was no guiding theory for this study, results support using the Information-Motivation-Behavior Skills model to assess the HL/health decision-making relationship in adolescence.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sasha A. Fleary, Evans Family Assistant Professor, Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Medford MA;, Email: [email protected] 2: Patrece Joseph, Graduate Research Assistant, Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Medford MA

Publication date: July 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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