Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Robert J. Pursley

Committee Members

Ira E. Harrison, Bill C. Wallace, Robert H. Kirk, James J. Neutens


The purpose of this study was to identify health risk factors for teens attending selected Tennessee public schools as either ninth or twelfth graders during the school year 1986-1987 and to provide baseline data for future school health education programs in Tennessee.

The data were collected using a computerized health risk appraisal questionnaire. The sample consisted of 1,348 ninth and twelfth grade students from seven selected Tennessee public schools across the state. Of the 1,348 students, 720 were ninth graders and 628 were twelfth graders. Descriptive statistics were used to obtain frequencies and percentages of the sample according to grade, gender, race, and geographical area. The t-test for independent samples and chi-square were utilized to determine whether significant differences existed between ninth and twelfth graders, male and female students, nonwhite and white students, and students from rural and urban areas.

The major findings of the study included: (1) The majority (46.5%) of Tennessee ninth and twelfth grade students were categorized into the fair health risk category. (2) The results of cross tabulations of grade (ninth and twelfth), race (nonwhite and white), and geographical area (rural and urban) with the health risk categories were significant when chi-square was applied but were not significant for gender. (3) Significant differences were found in practicing risky health behaviors according to grade, race, and geographical area, however no significant difference was determined between male and female students for engaging in risky health behaviors. (4) The major health risk factors of Tennessee teens were substance use/abuse, driving or riding under the influence of alcohol, lack of seat belt use, lack of adequate amount of exercise, and poor nutritional habits.

The following major conclusions were drawn from the findings of the study: (1) The overall health of Tennessee teens if fair. Driving or riding under the influence of alcohol, substance use/abuse, lack of adequate amount of exercise, poor nutritional habits, and lack of seat belt use appear to be the risk factors most implicated in the subjects' practice of risky health behaviors. (2) As student progress in grade, they increase their practice of risky health behaviors. (3) The gender of the subjects seems not to be a factor concerning the practice of risky health behaviors. (4) White students are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors than nonwhite students. (5) Students from urban areas are more likely to practice risky health behaviors than students from rural area.

The significance of the study is that this research is a major step toward primary prevention health education programs for dealing with adolescent health problems.

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