Risks, protective factors, and coping style in the lives of young people : findings from a survey of university students' health and wellbeing.
Research on risk and resilience related to behaviour and poor health outcomes among young people consistently indicates the need to take greater cognisance of social and environmental factors. This is particularly true of research in developing countries. In South Africa, there is a paucity of research on these issues. This study attempts to examine risk and protective factors, as well as coping style of young South Africans at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Environmental risk and protective factors measured were related to family, peers, and financial support. Categories of risk behaviour and poor health outcomes measured were substance use, sexual behaviour, general risk behaviour and depression. Broad-based questionnaires were sent to 2000 randomly selected students aged between 18 and 24 years old, and completed by 678 students. Results indicated that there was a trend towards gender equalisation in levels of risk and poor health outcomes- that there were significant relationships between many risk behaviours and poor health outcomes- that coping styles were correlated with risk behaviour and poor health outcomes in the expected direction (avoidance coping correlated positively and approach coping correlated negatively with risk behaviour, poor health outcomes and environmental risk factors)- and that environmental risk factors (low family, peer, and financial support) were associated with high levels of risk behaviour and poor health outcomes including sexual risks and depression. A contextual model was employed to explain the importance of environmental factors and coping styles in the promotion of health and wellbeing.
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