Missing Out on More than Health: Global Health and Social Integration in Adolescence

Jeanne L. Long, Emory University
Elizabeth Vaquera, University of South Florida

Health and social integration are widely recognized as two leading sources of happiness and general well-being. While researchers have demonstrated that friendships--a measure of social integration-- and health are related, the mechanisms behind the association are not understood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we explore three pathways that may explain the relationships between health, including obesity, and social integration in terms of reduced peer acceptance and social withdrawal: physical appearance, social engagement, and psychological well-being. Results indicate that physical appearance and social engagement are the most salient factors in the relationship between health and peer acceptance. Social withdrawal associated with poor health is not explained by any of the pathways. Physical appearance was particularly important in explaining reduced peer acceptance of obese youth, with opportunities for social engagement asserting a greater role among those with lower self-rated health.

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Presented in Poster Session 2