Shared from the 8/11/2018 The Denver Post eEdition

Troubled teenagers at risk of dying young

Research by CU shows impact of behavior issues

Teenagers with serious anti-social behaviors and substance-use histories are more likely to die prematurely, according to a new study by researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, which was published in the Addiction journal, found that “conduct disorder,” a mental health disorder that involves aggressive behaviors, such as property destruction, lying and thievery, in youths may be as much of a predictor of early death as substance abuse.

“We all know that substance abuse is bad and puts you at risk for substance overdoses and the like,” said John Hewitt, director of the university’s Institute for Behavioral Genetics. “What we found here, it wasn’t just substance abuse that was the problem.”

Hewitt worked on the study with Richard Border, lead author and a graduate student with the institute.

For the study, researchers followed 1,463 youths in their mid- to late teens who had been arrested or referred to counseling for substance abuse or “conduct disorder” for about 15 years. The teenagers are now in their early 30s.

Researchers found that 62 of the teenagers — more than 4 percent of the group — have already died. The deaths were mostly substance-related, but also included traffic-related deaths, suicides and deaths from assaults.

The study also followed 1,399 of the teenagers’ siblings, and found that about 2.4 percent of them have died.

“The people we’re talking about engage in risky behaviors of all kinds,” Hewitt said, about why the teenagers are more prone to premature deaths. “They get into trouble with the law. They get in trouble with each other.”

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