Ever get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol? Text while driving?

Engage in unprotected sex? If you’re like the rest of the human race, chances are good that at some point you’ve tried a behavior with the potential to harm yourself or those around you.

The Pain of Taking Unhealthy Risks

Most of us recognize that some risks have serious negative consequences.  For example, nearly 40% of teens had consumed alcohol and 22% had engaged in binge drinking in the previous 30 days, according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. These teens are at higher risk for academic and social problems, physical and sexual assault, and alcohol-related injuries or car accidents.

But it’s not just adolescents making risky decisions. Adults don’t always make healthy choices either. A report from the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that of the behaviors that “substantially” increase the chance of death, risky activities are responsible for two of them: smoking and alcohol consumption.

“Unhealthy risk-taking in adults can have devastating consequences for others too. In 2014, a Lancaster County man, who was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and heroin, was charged with criminal homicide after a car accident that killed an 18-year-old woman.”

The Power of Taking Healthy Risks

Risk-taking isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, the ability to take risks empowers kids, teens, and adults to learn skills, expand boundaries, find opportunities, and build confidence.

Examples of healthy risks include:

  • Engaging in a challenging physical activity, like rock climbing or kayaking;
  • Participating in social activities or volunteer projects;
  • Working to overcome a fear, such as speaking in public or riding a roller coaster;
  • Launching a business;
  • Returning to school to earn a certificate or degree.

Studies of adolescents show the benefit of healthy risks. For example, data suggests teens who take positive risks, whether it’s asking someone to go to the prom or running for a student office, are 20% more likely to avoid alcohol and other drugs. Another study found that tweens (pre-adolescents) who participated in coached sports were less likely to try smoking than those who didn’t participate in extracurricular activities. It also revealed that tweens who participated in clubs were less likely to try drinking alcohol.

There are lots of ways for children, teens, and adults to take healthy risks. Over the coming weeks, the Compass Mark blog will share examples of healthy risks taken by members of the Lancaster community as well as tips to help guide you—and the kids you love—toward making healthier choices.