Teens can be dissuaded from risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking, with health campaigns, that target teens based on their social groups and subcultures.
“In public health, we typically segment more in terms of socio-demographics like race, gender and income,” said Meghan Moran, an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society and lead author of the study.
“But, we know that young people identify strongly with groups along subcultures and these groups vary on their health behavior, too. For instance, the teens we categorize as alternative, be they goth or skateboarders, are at a higher risk for alcohol use. If we develop campaigns that incorporate the style of the group, it can increase their effectiveness.”
The study consisted of analyzing journal articles, with evidence related to the use of peer crowds, to develop targeted health campaigns aimed at adolescents. The campaigns can be developed and targeted at different levels for teens.
The teens identify with the individuals and the culture represented in a targeted campaign or the teen groups have different risk profiles. Campaigns can tap these vulnerable points, as it relates to translating the information to teen groups, i.e. skaters are at an increased risk for smoking and preppy teens exhibit an increased likelihood of alcohol use.
An ongoing anti-smoking campaign developed by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth targets alternative youth who identify with crowds, such as rockers or hardcore (punk) and strives to prevent smoking from being seen as socially acceptable in these music scenes.
“Why adolescent peer crowds matter: Incorporating youth subcultures and values in health behavior campaigns” was written by Meghan Moran, PhD; Jeffrey W. Jordan, MA and Mayo Djakaria, MPH.