Perceived Difficulty in Living a Healthy Lifestyle in Teens

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 9:10 AM

Stephanie A. Kelly, MS, FNP-C
College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Arizona State University College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation, Phoenix, AZ
Judith O'Haver, PhD, RN, CPNP
College of Nursing and Health Care Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Diana L. Jacobson, MS, RN, CPNP
College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ

Purpose: The prevalence of obesity in adolescents has tripled over the last three decades.  Perceived difficulty in living a healthy lifestyle may be one of several factors that impact an adolescent’s health behaviors. The purpose of this study was to determine whether perceived difficulty was related to a teen’s attitude to living a healthy lifestyle, his or her healthy lifestyle beliefs and healthy lifestyle choices.
Methods: In this study, 404 teens participated during a health/Physical Education course at two high schools in the Southwest region of the United States.  The mean age of respondents was 15.1 years with approximately 48% male and 52% female.  Perceived difficulty was measured with a ten item scale with.  Questions tapped a teen’s perceived difficulty in performing behaviors such as eating healthy and regular exercise on a 5 point Likert scale ranging from “Very hard to do” to Very easy to do”.  Cronbach alpha was .883.  The scale factored into two sub-scales, 1) Perceived difficulty with healthy eating and 2) Perceived difficulty with exercise.  The factor correlation was .574. 
Results: Perceived difficulty was negatively correlated with teen’s attitude (-.342, p<.01), choices (-.547, p<.01), and beliefs (-.486, p<.01).  Similar significant correlations were noted with sub-groups of non-overweight and overweight/obese teens.  Overweight and obese teens (BMI> 25) had significantly higher perceived difficulty than non-overweight teens (p=.026).  Perceived difficulty accounted for 29.9 % of the variance in choices made by these teens. 
Conclusion: Providing cognitive behavioral skills building as part of healthy lifestyles interventions with teens could be a key intervention to strengthen their beliefs and lessen perceived difficulty about engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Future research should explore the effects of interventions on perceived difficulty in performing healthy lifestyle behaviors.