Age-related health risk behaviors of adolescents with physical disabilities.

Objective: To investigate age-related differences in health risk behaviors in 11-12-, 13-14-, and 15-16-year-old adolescents with physical disabilities.

Methods: Health survey data from 319 adolescents with physical disabilities were compared with the same data from 7,020 adolescents in a national sample.

Results: Significant age-related differences were found for having tried smoking, smoking, having tasted an alcoholic drink, having been drunk, and using prescription drugs for recreational purposes. However, changes were modest and engagement of 15-16-year-old adolescents with physical disabilities was similar to 11-12-year-olds in the general population. Analysis of associations between disability status and health risk behaviors while controlling for age and sex showed that disability is associated with a lower likelihood of having tried smoking, smoking, having tasted an alcoholic drink, drinking, having been drunk, having used drugs, having used prescription drugs for recreational purposes, and eating sweets; a higher likelihood of not engaging in physical exercise, not eating fresh produce, and eating high-fat foods; and non-significant for seat-belt use.

Conclusion: Health promotion programs about health risk behaviours designed for adolescents in the general population may not be appropriate for adolescents with physical disabilities.