02:55pm Tuesday 26 September 2017

Puberty blues – are hormones really to blame?

“Many people assume that ‘raging puberty hormones’ are to blame for many teenage behaviours, but there is really no good evidence for this claim,” says Professor Steinbeck.

“There is a host of factors that affect teenagers’ physical and mental health, including peers, family, biological and psychosocial changes, and environmental factors.

“We want to discover what is and isn’t attributable to adolescent hormones. To dismiss adolescent behaviours as ‘just hormones’ might be very unwise.”

The talk will also provide a guide to understanding adolescent behaviours and discuss some of the ways that parents can help their adolescents through the second decade of life.

“Why adolescents have unpredictable behaviour, sometimes this is due to rapidly changing brain development, peer influences and whatever else might be on their minds at the time,” says Professor Steinbeck.

“Parents need to maintain solid communication lines with their children and remain clear about boundary settings.”

Using a three-year longitudinal study design, the world-first ARCHER* study is investigating the effects of puberty hormones on adolescent health, wellbeing and mood in a study population of 350 adolescents from regional New South Wales.

The study findings will have implications for families, schools and teachers, health professionals who have a responsibility to guide young people on their path to adulthood. It will pinpoint for the first time how puberty hormones affect a range of psychological, emotional, social and behavioural issues that arise during adolescence.

“Puberty is a tremendously dramatic physical event,” says Professor Steinbeck.

“Everyone goes through it, and it is a different experience for every person.

“We suspect that it is the speed of hormone change that has a significant impact on a range of mental, emotional and behavioural outcomes, and this will be different in every adolescent. For some, hormone levels rise slowly and steadily, others get walloped with a huge surge that occurs seemingly overnight.

“We’ve known for some time that the timing of puberty onset can have also long-term effects. For example, girls who start their periods earlier compared to their peers are more at risk of depression, obesity and breast cancer. And we know that those who describe a later puberty are more at risk for anxiety and possibly lower bone density.

“Adolescent health and wellbeing is everyone’s business. Health trajectories for both mental health and physical health are set in adolescence.

“The worry with teenage health problems is that, rather than being transient, these often persist past adolescence, establishing a pattern for the rest of that young person’s life.

“The major causes of morbidity and mortality in adults are tobacco, obesity and inactivity, and most of these damaging health behaviours start in adolescence. Physical activity levels fall off in the teenage years. Puberty is a risk time for overweight and obesity. And if you are a lifelong smoker, you most likely started as a teenager.

“Mental health problems are the most common morbidity in adolescence, followed by health risk behaviours and the impact of chronic illness. Injury is the most common cause of teenage death around the world, and is largely preventable,” says Professor Steinbeck.

* (ARCHER stands for Adolescent Rural Cohort on Hormones, Health Environments Education, Relationships) that looks at the true longitudinal effects of puberty hormones on adolescent health, wellbeing and mood.

Fast facts:
– The start of puberty can vary between the ages of eight and 13 in girls, and nine and 14 in boys
– There is a wide variation in when puberty starts and in the time it takes to go through it
– Puberty hormones increase 20-30 times above childhood levels during that time
– For girls: a 20 centimetre height growth and a 20 kilogram weight gain
– For boys: a 30 centimetre height growth and a 30 kilogram weight gain

Event details:
What: Are Teenagers (actually) Crazy? Raging Teenage Hormones – Fact or Fiction?
When: Wednesday 29 October, 6pm – 7.30pm
Where: Law School Foyer, Level 2, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, The University of Sydney.
Cost: Free event with online registration requested
More info: www.sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas

 

Media enquiries:

Kobi Print, 02 9036 7589, 0481 012 729


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