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Study looks at the impact of education, housing and more on health of Arizona adolescents

A new study examined the effect of various factors on the health of Arizona adolescents that researchers divided into five main categories that include physical and mental health, education and workforce development, environment and climate, economic well-being, and family and community.

Dr. Vinny Chulani, who helped author the report released by the Arizona Alliance Association, said mental health is one of the most pressing issues.

“From 2020 to 2021, almost 27% of adolescents had at least a mental, emotional, behavioral or developmental condition,” he said. “However, only half of them really received any sort of treatment or counseling for it.”

Government agencies that manage those services, he said, are critical influencers of young people’s health and well-being.

“We need to have a state adolescent health improvement agenda that brings all these different players together,” said Chulani. “And judging from the kind of enthusiasm that we're seeing from people receiving the status report and what we're really advocating for, it gives us a lot of optimism.”

Chulani said they’re advocating for future research should also examine positive influences and how to leverage them. Often, when he asks people to immediately associate words with "adolescent," he gets responses along the lines of “rebellious, difficult, temperamental, moody.”

“We view adolescents as problems to be managed rather than as assets to be cultivated,” he said.

The commonly accepted narrative that teenage years, especially, are dark and stormy does little to encourage change, he said, which he hopes the report will be a step toward changing as well.

“As caring adults, it's incumbent upon us to secure the best spaces for young people, right?” said Chulani. “Because these are young people of the community.”

Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.