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Background of the Study

It is often believed that a healthy lifestyle is a valuable resource for reducing the incidence and impact of health problems, enhancing recovery, coping with life stressors and improving quality of life. However, almost everybody exhibits unhealthy lifestyles in one form or the other (National Institutes of Health-NIH, 2006). It appears, however, that secondary school students indulge in unhealthy lifestyles more than their out-of-school counterparts. According to NIH (2006), in-school male students are more likely than out-of-school male students to indulge in unhealthy lifestyles. This may however be primarily because of their condition of life, which involves tension and environmental factors that expose them to most of these unhealthy lifestyles more than out-of-school students, (Fineran, 1996; Visser & Moleko, 1998; Daga & Daga, 2004; Ezedum, 2004). The International Union for Health Promotion and Education -IUHPE (1999) was of the opinion that a sizable proportion of the ten leading causes of death was due to potentially modifiable social and lifestyle factors. The IUHPE also condemned unhealthy lifestyles in whichever pattern it is practiced.

Unhealthy lifestyles, according to Eaton, Kann, Kinchen, Ross, Harkins, Harris, Lowry, Memanus, Chyan and Shanklin (2006), are those risky behaviours that can have adverse effect on the overall development and well-being of the individual. Springer, Selwyn and Kelder (2006) perceived unhealthy lifestyles as a general term used to describe adverse health behaviours adopted by individuals and groups.

Unhealthy lifestyle is a concept that denotes potential negative impact to an asset or some characteristics of value that may arise from present process or future event. Reber (1995) conceptualized unhealthy lifestyles as a set of actions that jeopardize something of value. The object that is threatened may be a physical object, a social or culturally valued psychological entity such as self-esteem. For example, when an individual involves himself or herself in an action that involves risk that results to unpleasant outcome, it is referred to as unhealthy lifestyle. According to Adam (2003), unhealthy lifestyles are situations where something unpleasant happens to someone. It also means doing something that one knows has dangerous or unpleasant result.

Robyn and Lam (1999) opined that, there is no clear consensus in the literature about the definition or the key elements that are encompassed in the concept of unhealthy lifestyles. While it is generally agreed that such lifestyles are associated with increased risks of mortality, morbidity, and disability, there is uncertainty about whether specific lifestyles are associated with acute adverse outcomes.

Trimpop (1994) defined unhealthy lifestyles in either or both of the following ways: Firstly, in terms of lifestyles that have been shown or are believed to be associated with increased chances of mortality, morbidity or disability. Secondly, in terms of propensity to take risks in general, rather than a focus on specifically defined lifestyles. In the context of this study, unhealthy lifestyles as suggested by Robert and Peter (1990) are open to variety of interpretations. While it certainly connotes the possibility of some negative outcome, views differ on whether these risky actions are necessarily deliberate. For some, the term implies deliberate choice of exposure to danger; others extend the meaning of unhealthy lifestyles to include all actions that can have negative consequences even when playing it safe in-school secondary school students.

Unhealthy lifestyle is defined as volitional involvement in established patterns of lifestyles that threaten the well-being of secondary school students and limit their potential for achieving responsible adulthood (Lindberg, Boggess & Williams, 2000). These are also commonly referred to as problem behaviours (Elliott, 1993); (Jessor & Jessor, 1997). Springer, Selwyn and Kelder (2006) perceived unhealthy lifestyle as a general term used to describe adverse health behaviours adopted in adolescence. Lindberg et al., (2000) further distinguished unhealthy lifestyles from unhealthy lifestyle outcomes- the consequences of the behaviour. For example, unprotected sexual intercourse is an unhealthy lifestyle, while teenage pregnancy is an unhealthy lifestyle outcome and is not examined in the present study.

Unhealthy lifestyle as viewed by Onuzulike (2007) is defined as a vehicle by which adolescents begin to make the transition to adulthood. Biologically based theories attribute unhealthy lifestyle to genetic predispositions and hormonal and psychosocial changes mediated through pubertal timing (Igra & Irwin, 1996; Blum, McNeely & Nonnemaker, 2001). In the context of the study, unhealthy lifestyle shall refer to sum total of health impairing behaviours or lifestyles practices, which initiated during secondary school days.

Literature (Abanobi, 2005) revealed that secondary school students’ unhealthy lifestyles include smoking, drinking alcohol, eating food with too much calories and fats, and inactivity. National Institute of Health (2006), on the other hand, categorized unhealthy lifestyles into substance abuse, inadequate exercise, and poor dietary practices as they relate to being over-weight and intentional injuries. Similarly, Onuzulike (2007) classified unhealthy lifestyles into smoking, tobacco use, excessive consumption of alcohol, drug abuse, sex-work and unsafe sex, unhealthy diet, child abuse, family violence, lack of exercise, intentional injuries and suicidal behaviours. DeGuzman and Bosch (2007) stated that unhealthy lifestyles include self injuries behaviours (violence and suicide); substance use (alcohol abuse, tobacco and drug abuse); risky sexual behaviours (sex-work); behaviours related to obesity and unhealthy dieting (unhealthy diet) and inactivity or lack of exercise.

In this study, unhealthy lifestyles refer to that way of living that has adverse effects on the overall development and well-being of youths and adults or attitudes that might prevent them from success and development.  This study focused essentially on unhealthy lifestyles which are classified into five categories namely; self injuries behaviours (violence, sexual harassment and suicide); substance use (alcohol abuse, tobacco and drug abuse); risky sexual behaviours (sex-work); behaviours related to obesity and unhealthy dieting (unhealthy diet) and inactivity or lack of exercise. DeGuzman and Bosch (2007) posited that unhealthy lifestyles are commonly seen among the secondary school students. The study focused on secondary school students because majority of them inclined to unhealthy lifestyles. This was based on the studies conducted by Fineran (1996), Visser and Moleko (1998), Daga and Daga (2004), who concluded in their various studies that unhealthy lifestyles existed among secondary school students.

Unhealthy lifestyles, according to NIH (2006) are the primary preventable cause of death in the United States. The report further noted that the majority of American adult deaths result from cardiovascular disease and cancer, with many associated risk factors being initiated during secondary school days. Substance abuse and other unhealthy lifestyles carry an enormous price tag in terms of toll on life, quality of life and economic costs.

Substance use is among the leading cause of accidents, homicides and suicides, the three leading causes of teenage deaths in Nigeria, as in most countries of the world (Abanobi, 2005). Cigarette / tobacco smoking is the primary preventable cause of death in the world today (World Health Organization, 1995). Kelder, Perry and Lytle (1994) reported that majority of the all the adult deaths results from cardiovascular disease and cancer, with many of the associated risk factors being initiated during adolescence. Substance misuse and abuse drastically reduce quality of life, and demands substantial economic costs to remedy such abnormalities on the part of the individual, family, and govement.



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