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Study sees fatalism behind some risky teen behavior

Associated Press

Nearly 15% of teenagers think they are going to die young, leading many to drug use, suicide attempts and other unsafe behavior, new research suggests.

The study, based on a survey of more than 20,000 young people, challenges conventional wisdom that says teens engage in risky behavior because they think they are invulnerable to harm.

Instead, a sizable number of teens may take chances “because they feel hopeless and figure that not much is at stake,” said study author Dr. Iris Borowsky, a researcher at the University of Minnesota.

That behavior threatens to turn their fatalism into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Teens who thought they would die early were seven times more likely than optimistic teens to be subsequently diagnosed with AIDS. They also were more likely to attempt suicide and get in fights resulting in serious injuries.

Borowsky said the magnitude of teens with a negative outlook was eye-opening.

Adolescence is “a time of great opportunity and for such a large minority of youth to feel like they don’t have a long life ahead of them was surprising,” she said.

The study appears in the July issue of Pediatrics, released today.

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