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Health Inequalities Among Opportunity Youths: A Study on Transitioning to Fair/Poor Health in the United States

Despite the expanding educational and employment opportunities in developed countries, many young adults aged 16-24 are neither enrolled in school nor employed—opportunity youth—in the U.S. This study explores some of the health implications of not addressing this disengagement.

Published onNov 16, 2023
Health Inequalities Among Opportunity Youths: A Study on Transitioning to Fair/Poor Health in the United States

In the United States, a concerning population of young adults is neither enrolled in school nor employed, known as "opportunity youth." These individuals face significant challenges in accessing education, income, and economic opportunities, which can lead to pronounced disparities in health outcomes compared to their counterparts—youths engaged in education and/or employment (other youths). Despite the importance of this issue, limited research has delved into the health inequalities between opportunity youths and other youths. To address this critical knowledge gap, this study examined the differences in the risk of transitioning to fair/poor health opportunity youths (age 18-24) and other youths (age 18-24), using data from the Wave III-V National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). A Kaplan-Meier survival function was used to analyze the survival pattern of fair/poor health transitions across waves for young adults. The findings demonstrated decreased survival probability of transitioning to fair/poor health across waves. Moreover, the hazard of transitioning to fair/poor health increased as young adults aged. Additionally, a binomial regression model was used to assess the likelihood of transitioning to fair/poor Health in opportunity youths compared to other youths. The findings (HR= 1.78; p <0.001) show that opportunity youths are at a markedly higher risk of experiencing a transition to fair/poor health than their other youths. Understanding the intricacies of health dynamics among opportunity youths is essential for crafting effective, evidence-based interventions. By identifying the factors contributing to the higher risk of transitioning to fair/poor health in this vulnerable young population, policymakers can tailor programs that empower and support opportunity youths in their pursuit of education, meaningful employment, and improved health outcomes. In conclusion, this study offers vital insights into the health inequalities opportunity youths face in the United States. The findings underscore the pressing need to address these disparities and prioritize the health and well-being of young adults who are not in school or employment by recognizing and acknowledging the challenges faced by this population, implementing policies that foster positive change, ultimately improving the health outcomes and later life experiences of opportunity youths and creating a more equitable and healthier society.

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