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The contribution of club participation to adolescent health: evidence from six countries


Background: Social networks have been recognised as an important factor for enhancing the health of people and communities. Bridging social capital, characterised by numerous and varied weak ties, exemplifies a particular type of network that can help people reach their goals and improve their health. This study seeks to contribute to the evidence base on the use of positive social networks for young people’s health by exploring the importance of club participation in predicting the health and health-related behaviours of 15-year-old girls and boys across Europe and North America.

Methods: Data are derived from a 2005–6 World Health Organization collaborative study, to establish the relationships between different types of club and a range of health outcomes (self-perceived health, wellbeing and symptoms) and health-related behaviours (smoking, drinking). Multi-level logistic regression was used to assess the independent effects of club participation by controlling for gender and socioeconomic position. Data were compared across six countries.

Results: All the considered outcomes, both in terms of perceived health and wellbeing and health behaviours were associated with participation in formal associations. The associations are in the expected direction (participation corresponding to better health) except for some particular association types.

Conclusions: Participation in formal associations seems supportive for good health and health behaviours in adolescence, and should be promoted in this age group.

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