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Clustering of health-related behaviours within children aged 11–16: a systematic review

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Objective: We aimed to systematically review and synthesise evidence on the clustering of a broad range of health-related behaviours amongst 11–16 year olds. Method: A literature search was conducted in September 2019. Studies were included if they used cluster analysis, latent class analysis, prevalence odds ratios, principal component analysis or factor analysis, and considered at least three health-related behaviours of interest among 11–16 year olds in high-income countries. Health-related behaviours of interest were substance use (alcohol, cigarettes and other drug use) and other behavioural risk indicators (diet, physical activity, gambling and sexual activity). Results: The review identified 41 studies, which reported 198 clusters of health-related behaviours of interest. The behaviours of interest reported within clusters were used to define eight behavioural archetypes. Some included studies only explored substance use, while others considered substance use and/or other health-related behaviours. Consequently, three archetypes were comprised by clusters reporting substance use behaviours alone. The archetypes were: (1) Poly-Substance Users, (2) Single Substance Users, (3) Substance Abstainers, (4) Substance Users with No/Low Behavioural Risk Indicators, (5) Substance Abstainers with Behavioural Risk Indicators, (6) Complex Configurations, (7) Overall Unhealthy and (8) Overall Healthy. Conclusion: Studies of youth health behavioural clustering typically find both a ‘healthy’ cluster and an ‘unhealthy’ cluster. Unhealthy clusters are often characterised by poly-substance use. Our approach to synthesising cluster analyses may offer a means of navigating the heterogeneity of method, measures and behaviours of interest in this literature.




Whitaker, V., Oldham, M., Boyd, J., Fairbrother, H., Curtis, P., Meier, P., & Holmes, J. (2021). Clustering of health-related behaviours within children aged 11–16: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 21(1).

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