The role of city income inequality, sex ratio and youth mortality rates in the effect of violent victimization on health-risk behaviors in Brazilian adolescents
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This study integrates insights from evolutionary psychology and social epidemiology to present a novel approach to contextual effects on health-risk behaviors (unprotected sex, drunkenness episodes, drugs and tobacco experimentation) among adolescents. Using data from the 2012 Brazilian National Survey of Adolescent Health (PeNSE), we first analyzed the effects of self-reported violent victimization on health-risk behaviors of 47,371 adolescents aged 10-19 nested in the 26 Brazilian state capitals and the Federal District. We then explored whether the magnitude of these associations was correlated with cues of environmental harshness and unpredictability (youth external mortality and income inequality) and mating competition (sex ratio) from the city level. Results indicated that self-reported violent victimization is associated with an increased chance of engagement in health-risk behaviors in all Brazilian state capitals, for both males and females, but the magnitude of these associations varies in relation to broader environmental factors, such as the cities' age-specific mortality rates, and specifically for females, income inequality and sex ratio. In addition to introducing a novel theoretical and empirical approach to contextual effects on adolescent health-risk behaviors, our findings reinforce the need to consider synergies between people's life experiences and the conditions where they live, when studying health-risk behaviors in adolescence.
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