Peers are people that a child, adolescent or adult identifies with. A peer can influence, persuade and coerce you to do certain things or act a certain way in order to be accepted. Even though often perceived as negative, peer pressure can also affect a person in a positive manner. Your personal health can improve or decline depending on how you handle peer pressure.
Pressure to Smoke
Many teens have to deal with peer pressure to smoke. Their friends smoke and if they don't join in the unhealthy behaviour, they risk not being accepted. According to the Teen Help website, 440,000 people in the United States die yearly from smoke-related diseases. Ninety per cent of these people started smoking in their teens. Regardless of your age, smoking can cause lung cancer and lung disease and it increases your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.
Pressure to Drink Alcohol
The pressure to drink alcohol can affect people of all ages. Teens may be pressured into drinking by their alcohol-drinking peers and adults may feel pressure to drink during after-work social gatherings. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, consuming alcohol at a young age may affect brain and organ development and drinking can cause liver damage and liver failure in people of all ages.
Pressure to Have Sex
The peer pressure to have sex at an early age can increase a teen's stress level. According to Psychology Today, one in three boys and 23 per cent of girls between the ages of 15 to 17 deal with peer pressure to have sex. If a teenager has low self-esteem he may be more prone to have sex at an early age. Having sex too early can trigger emotional problems and physically teens can contract sexually transmitted diseases and get pregnant.
Pressure to Improve Health
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute states that being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and hypertension. If your diet consists mostly of unhealthy, fatty foods and you are not getting any exercise, peer pressure can actually help improve your health. If you have one or more friends that eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise, they may influence you to do the same. By following their healthy behaviour, you can lose weight. Once you switch to a healthy diet and start exercising, your peers will cheer you on and motivate you to keep going.
- Teen Help: Teen Smoking Statistics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Underage Drinking
- Psychology Today; Peer Pressure and Teen Sex; Colin Allen; May 2003
- Surf Net Parents: Possible Effects of Peer Pressure on Your Teenager
- Fit Day: Using Peer Pressure to Start Eating Healthy
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images