Last Update: 05/24/2007 Printer Friendly Printer Friendly   Email This Page Email This Page  

Add Health Study
What is the Add Health study?
The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (also known as Add Health, the Add Health Study, and the Add Health Survey) is a nationally representative study originally designed to examine how social contexts (such as families, friends, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and communities) influence teens' health and risk behaviors. The study is now examining how health changes over the course of early adulthood.

As a group, adolescents are generally healthy people. Threats to their health come primarily from their behavior. Many of the choices teens make have consequences that are not apparent until later, especially in regard to their health. As adolescents move toward adulthood, the decisions they made as teens begin to influence their adult lives.

What is the focus of the study?
The study began in 1994 under a grant from the NICHD, with co-funding from 17 other federal agencies.  The Add Health study is the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.

Initially, the goals of the study focused only on adolescents.  Researchers designed the study to determine how families, friends, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and individual characteristics influence health, health behaviors and use of health care.

Recent phases of the study have examined health and health behaviors during the transition from adolescence into adulthood and the early years of adulthood.  These are the years in which young people assume adult roles and responsibilities, develop crucial health habits, and make lifestyle choices that set pathways for their future adult health and well-being. Researchers will study how adolescent experiences and environments influence what happens during the transition to adulthood and explore the early causes of behavioral and disease processes that lead to adult chronic disease.

Who is participating in the study?
Beginning in 1994, researchers selected a random sample of 7th to 12th grade students from schools across the country. About 90,000 young people participated by filling out a brief questionnaire at school.

Then, researchers conducted in-depth, at-home interviews with students and their parents. The students were interviewed again in their homes one year later. School administrators provided information about the schools participants attended and existing data were compiled to describe neighborhoods and communities.  With participants’ permission, information from high school transcripts is also available to the study.

More recent phases of the study are re-interviewing participants in the first in-home interview at ages 18 to 26, and again at ages 24 to 32.

What kinds of topics does the study address?
The study collects information on:
  • Physical and mental health, such as weight and height, injury and disability, dietary patterns and physical activity, substance use, access to and use of health care services, and suicide and depression
  • Interpersonal relationships and sexual behaviors, such as family relationships, friendships, interracial relationships, faith community interactions, sexual activity, and sexual orientation
  • Education, including cognitive ability and individual, family, peer, and community influences on school performance
  • Delinquency and violence, including individual, family, peer, and community influences on delinquency and violence and risk factors for delinquency and violence
  • Involvement in adult roles, including parenthood, jobs, marriage
  • Genetic characteristics and biological measures that indicate the presence of specific diseases and disease processes
  • Measures of the environments in which participants live and go to school
Are the study data and results available?
Researchers have published more than 600 articles from analyses of data collected during waves I, II, and III of the study.  In addition, these data are available for others to use for scientific studies and policy analyses about adolescent behavior.  More than 3000 scientists have used the data to analyze aspects of complex issues related to adolescent health.

Data collection for Wave IV of the study - on participants ages 24 to 32 - is scheduled to begin in 2008.

Add Health investigators hope this research will enable policy makers, researchers, health care providers, and educators to better understand how to protect the health of young people in the United States and how to prevent the early development of chronic diseases.

Where can I get more information about the Add Health study?
For More Information:
Clinical Trials
News Releases
Web Sites
Contact Information:
NICHD Information Resource Center
P.O. Box 3006
Rockville, MD 20847
Phone: 1-800-370-2943
Fax: 301-984-1473