The hidden risks of being good-looking: How attractive teens may face more dangers

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New research suggests that being good-looking isn’t always the key to happiness.

In fact, attractive teens might be more likely to engage in risky behaviors like partying and drinking alcohol.

This can increase their chances of developing alcohol problems later in life, according to a study by Professor Colin Peter Green from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The study, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, explores how beauty influences risky behaviors among young people.

The research team looked at six types of risky behavior: drinking, binge drinking, smoking, substance use, unprotected sex, and unwanted pregnancy.

These activities are dangerous on their own and can lead to long-term problems like alcoholism and teenage pregnancy, which can affect education and income.

The study found a direct link between attractiveness and risky behavior, especially with alcohol consumption.

Both boys and girls who are considered attractive tend to drink more and binge drink more frequently. This is particularly true for the most attractive girls, who drink more than their less attractive peers.

Professor Green explains, “Our main finding is that young people who are perceived as having the most pleasing appearance generally drink more and engage in binge drinking more often. Their risks and life outcomes are connected to their inner confidence and self-respect.”

While many studies show that good looks can lead to success in jobs and higher pay, this research focused on how beauty affects the choices young people make before becoming adults. The team wanted to see if attractiveness influences risky behavior with long-term consequences.

This is the first study to explore the link between appearance and risky behavior. The data comes from the Add Health study, the most extensive longitudinal study of young people in the United States.

Over 30,000 participants were interviewed from their early teens to young adulthood. They were asked about their drinking habits, smoking, drug use, unprotected sex, and pregnancy. When they were between 24 and 32 years old, they also reported if they had developed alcohol problems.

The reasons behind young people’s choices are complex. Attractive teens are often popular and attend more parties where alcohol is available. They also generally have higher self-esteem, which can protect them from making even worse decisions.

However, they still tend to engage in risky behaviors like drinking, which is seen as “cool.” On the other hand, they avoid behaviors considered “uncool,” like drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.

Interviewers rated the participants’ appearance on a scale from 1 (very unattractive) to 5 (very attractive), with most interviewers being women. While beauty is subjective, the researchers ensured the ratings were scientifically valid. They also measured factors like popularity, self-esteem, and personality traits to understand how these affect young people’s actions.

Professor Green emphasizes the importance of understanding what drives young people’s choices. “A young person may seem beautiful and successful, but they might have emotional issues like an unstable home life or mental health problems. This can be a dangerous combination,” he says.

The study concludes that building confidence and self-respect from childhood is crucial for promoting young people’s health and preventing negative life outcomes. By understanding the hidden risks of being good-looking, we can better support teens in making safer choices.