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The Extra-Curricular Project: The impact of extra-curricular activities on adolescents’ connectedness and cigarette smoking

Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable mortality and morbidity in Australia. Despite investment in classroom and mass media approaches, only limited reductions in adolescent smoking have occurred in Australia over the last decade. Innovative strategies to reduce adolescent smoking onset and transition require exploration. Extra-curricular activities (discretionary, stimulating activities that engage students outside normal teaching times) provide an important medium for increasing school and family connectedness and, in turn greater connectedness has been associated with lower smoking prevalence, other health compromising behaviours and better mental health status. However, little research has explored the potential of using extra-curricular activities as an intervention on smoking and other health outcomes. This study seeks to quantify the potential benefits of participation in extra-curricular activities in reducing cigarette smoking and other risk factors via the mediating factor of connectedness.


Based on findings from the formative Health and Extra-curricular study (2002-2003), this study aimed to explore the potential benefits of participation in extra-curricular activities. The study addressed Year 8 student’s participation in extra-curricular activities and its relationship to cigarette smoking, drug use, mental health and educational progress. The majority of the 2,019 students tracked from Year 8 to Year 10 participated in extra-curricular activities at school, with participation declining with increasing age. Students who consistently participated in school-based extra-curricular activities in Years 8 to 9 were less likely to have smoked cigarettes in the past week, smoke regularly, have ever used marijuana, have been absent from school on four or more days in the previous term and demonstrated having more prosocial behaviour than those who did not participate. Students who consistently participated in school-based extra-curricular activities in Years 8 to 10 were less likely to have been absent from school on four or more days in the previous term, more likely to want to complete a post-secondary qualification, demonstrated more prosocial behaviour and were more connected to their school than students who did not participate.

Project duration

2004-2006

Funding body

Healthway

For further information about this project, please contact Dr Laura Thomas on l.thomas@ecu.edu.au


Researchers

Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand, Dr Greg Hamilton
Professor Donna Cross
University of Otago, New Zealand, Associate Professor Rob McGee
Associate Professor Marg Hall

Child Health Promotion Research Centre
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