The main premise of the Add Health study is that social context--such as relationships
with families, friends, and peers--influences the health-related behaviors of young people, and
that understanding that context is essential to guide efforts to modify health behaviors.
The survey was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, roughly 90,000 students from
grades 7 through 12 at 145 schools around the U.S. answered brief questionnaires to provide
information about themselves and other aspects of their lives, including their health, friendships,
self esteem, and expectations for the future. Parental support for the in-school survey was strong.
Before students could participate, parents had to give their permission through procedures
approved by each school. In some schools, parents volunteered their time to help administer the
In the second phase of the study, interviews were conducted with roughly 20,000 students
and their parents in the students' homes. The National Opinion Research Center at the University
of Chicago trained about 500 interviewers to carry out these interviews in communities across
the country. With the written consent of both the adolescents and their parent, interviewers
conducted a 90 minute computer-administered interview covering each adolescent's health and
health behaviors, family life, peer relationships, goals and aspirations, and related topics. They
also interviewed parents about the adolescents' health, family relationships, family income and
health insurance, and parents' own health behavior.
One year later, these students were interviewed a second time in their homes. Because
these adolescents were interviewed twice, it is possible to measure directly the influence of theirexperiences at one time on their later behaviors, and the consequences that such behaviors have
on later outcomes.
One of the hallmarks of the Add Health study is the independent measurement of
contextual influences on adolescent health. Administrators of participating schools have
completed a short questionnaire about school characteristics that, along with the in-school
student questionnaires, will provide comprehensive information on the school environment. In
addition, investigators are using independent sources to compile a rich data set measuring health-related aspects of the local neighborhood and community. These will include measures of
poverty, housing quality, attendance at churches or other religious institutions, unemployment
rates, access to health services, public policies and expenditures, and much more. Information
about peer groups was collected directly from peers, and information about home life was
collected from parents and siblings. The large sample of siblings, twins, and adopted youth will
allow an examination of how health behaviors vary within families, and how the same family
may influence its children in different ways.
To ensure adequate samples of minority populations, the investigators collected
information from large samples of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Chinese, and African American youth.
The investigators also sampled disabled youth, to provide national data on the health and well-being of disabled adolescents.
The Add Health Principal Investigator is Dr. J. Richard Udry, Kenan Professor of
Maternal and Child Health and of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Other members of the project team include scientists at the University of Minnesota, the
University of Arizona, the State University of New York--Albany, Battelle Institute, the
University of North Carolina, and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of
Chicago. A National Advisory Board includes scientists and adolescent health specialists from
Northwestern University, the American Medical Association, the New Jersey Medical School,
the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and the University of
Pennsylvania. The Advisory Board, along with scientists in fields related to adolescent health
and scientists within the NIH and the Public Health Service, provided advice to the project team
on the development of the study.
In addition to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Federal
offices and agencies supporting Add Health include: the National Cancer Institute, the National
Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Deafness and other
Communication Disorders, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of
General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of
Nursing Research, the Office of AIDS Research (NIH), the Office of the Director (NIH), the
Office of Research on Women's Health (NIH), the Office of Behavioral and Social Science
Research (NIH), the Office of Population Affairs of the Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS), the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (DHHS), Office of Minority Health of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (DHHS), the Office of Minority Health, Office of Public Health and Science (DHHS),
the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (DHHS), and the National
Science Foundation. Many professional and scientific organizations have expressed their interest
in the study, anticipating that the data and findings will have immense value for their own areas
of research activities.
Project scientists are currently analyzing the data gathered from the first wave of the study
and will release preliminary findings in September of 1997. This information was made
available for other investigators to analyze in the Summer of 1997. The second wave of data is
scheduled to be made public in November, 1997.
Response Statement: JAMA article on the Adolescent Health Study
The Adolescent Health Survey: Questions and Answers