Health through three life stages: A longitudinal study of urban black adolescents

Ann F. Brunswick, Cheryl R. Merzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This is a study of life stage coherence and change in perceived health status and morbidity reports over a 15 year interval bounding adolescence. Data were obtained through personal home interviews with a representative sample (N = 426) of urban black youths who were interviewed at three successive life stages: first when they were adolescents ages 12-17, 6-8 years later when they were ages 18-23, and 7-8 years after that when they were ages 26-31. Results showed that health decline was neither continuous nor progressive over the three life stages. Instead, a dramatic increase in morbidity reports occurring between adolescent and post adolescent measurement was succeeded by stabilization in the following 7 year interval. One interpretation of these findings is that they reflect the stressfulness of the adolescent life stage in the urban black youth cohort. The congruence of this interpretation with Mechanic and Angel's theory of differential health synchrony over the life course and also with Antonovsky's theory of sense of coherence in explaining variations in perceived health is discussed. The study, finally, pointed up a serious methodological impediment to attempting comparative life span health studies such as this, namely, the difficulty in arriving at equivalently comprehensive and sensitive health symptom indicators at different life stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1207-1213
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1988


  • adolescent health
  • black youth
  • gender
  • perceived health change
  • utilization of health services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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