Healthy Lifestyles 101 | Helping you help yourself to a healthier lifestyle

In the 21st century, many teenagers lead a hectic life due to school commitments. As a result of their busy schedules, many students struggle to have a healthy lifestyle. They may not get enough sleep, may be addicted to social media and may resort to smoking and overeating to de-stress. Hence, in my opinion, some teenagers do find it challenging to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Indeed, many teenagers tend to go to sleep at wee hours of the night either due to gruelling school work or indulgence in entertainment. Lack of sleep is extremely detrimental to health, especially to teenagers, as they are very vulnerable to their effects. Ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to emotional and behavioural problems, weight gain and insomnia. These problems can affect youths’ quality of life as they might feel lethargic and easily irritable throughout the day. Excessive weight gain can also lead to obesity and cause other grave health issues such as coronary heart diseases and even diabetes in the long run. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended hours of sleep for teenagers is eight to ten hours. However, a Straits Times survey has found that only 15% teenagers met that condition. Evidently, the majority of teenagers adopt an unhealthy lifestyle of accumulating sleep debt.

In addition, many teenagers make poor lifestyle choices as they opt for unhealthy ways to relieve stress such as smoking or over-eating. Based on data from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), in 2014, 6,200 students below the legal age of 18, including primary school students, were caught smoking. This was 17% more than 5,311 in 2013, indicative of a rising trend of youth smoking. Smoking is extremely harmful to the human body as it is the root of several diseases such as lung cancer and stroke. Nicotine released from smoking can also affect the smoker’s emotions, memory, attention span and decision-making process. This can impact youth’s concentration in school negatively and also cause emotional outbursts. Besides smoking, some teenagers may resort to overeating to de-stress. This is also an unhealthy way to unwind as overeating in the long term can lead to metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. These conditions increase the risks of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Such irresponsible habits and behaviours witnessed among teenagers are indeed unseemly or worse, deplorable.

On the other hand, gainsayers may argue that youths lead a healthy lifestyle in the social aspect where they are able to strike a delicate balance between offline and online lives. However, this statement is unlikely to be true as more and more teenagers are addicted to social media. This addiction can retard the development of youths’ communication and interpersonal skills, resulting in social awkwardness. Although social media allows teenagers to connect with their friends virtually, the overuse of these platforms has instead displaced their authentic face-to-face interactions with others. Without physical interactions, youths may not be able to bond with others on an emotional or physical level, which can be inimical to familial and peer relationship building. As a result, teenagers may distance themselves from their real world friends and family, ending up in social isolation. To rectify this problem, parents could police their children’s usage of digital devices and educate them about the dangers of such obsession. Furthermore, youths should also exercise digital discipline while keeping priorities in mind.

Leading a healthy lifestyle requires discipline and dedication in which some teenagers lack, evident in their censorious practices such as sleeping late, smoking and overconsumption. In the grand scheme of things, shouldn’t we, teenagers be responsible for our overall well-being comprising the social, physical, emotional as well as mental aspects?

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