“Lost souls” and “rebels”: a challenge to the assumption that low self-esteem and unhealthy lifestyles are related

West, P. and Sweeting, H. (1997) “Lost souls” and “rebels”: a challenge to the assumption that low self-esteem and unhealthy lifestyles are related. Health Education, 97(5), pp. 161-167. (doi: 10.1108/09654289710172450)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09654289710172450


Challenges the assumption, prevalent in education and in health education, that a sense of high self-esteem is a key ingredient for success in educational achievement and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Describes the measurement of self-esteem and “street-oriented” leisure among a cohort of about 1,000 young people aged 15 in 1987 who are the subject of the West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study: Health in the Community. Finds that there is no relationship between self-esteem and health behaviours such as smoking, drinking, illicit drug use and early sexual experience. Also finds that 15-year-olds who were most “street-oriented” were more likely to smoke, drink, have used drugs and to be more sexually experienced than peers who were not involved in this lifestyle. Defines two groups, “lost souls”, who have “low” self-esteem but who are neither very involved with nor very detached from school, nor very involved with or very detached from “street-oriented” leisure; and “rebels”, who are very detached from school and who derive a sense of identity and self-esteem from “street culture”. Observes that it is encouraging that this latter group is to some extent aware of the risks of their unhealthy behaviours. Quotes data from a similar study among 11-year-olds, which suggest that the categories of “lost souls” and “rebels” already exist at earlier ages. Concludes that, although the aim of fostering self-esteem is a worthy one, it is unlikely to have the secondary effect of reducing the likelihood that young people will adopt unhealthy lifestyles.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sweeting, Dr Helen
Authors: West, P., and Sweeting, H.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Health Education

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