High impact study examines adolescent activity patterns

TDAI affiliates Christopher Browning, professor of sociology, and Srinivasan Parthasarathy, professor of computer science and engineering, are part of a team of Ohio State researchers conducting a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary study of adolescent health in an urban environment.

The study, which is led by Statistics Professor Kate Calder and includes Population Research Senior Research Associate Bethany Boettner, aims to link geographic locations to health-science research by focusing on “co-location” networks, defined by locations of an individual’s routine activities. These do not indicate direct contact between individuals at specific geographic locations, but rather the potential for contact and shared experiences based on proximate routine activities—not necessarily of the same type.

“We are particularly interested in measuring exposure to violence and to social and physical disorder—visible cues of decline: graffiti, litter, homelessness, prostitution and public drinking—and exploring the relationship between these exposures and a bio-measure of physiological stress,” Calder says.

“With growing recognition of the relevance of these co-location networks to health and well-being and the increasing availability of data, there is a significant need for novel statistical methodology to examine co-location network data. We will do that by using supplementary data sources to refine inferences based on observational data.

“What makes this project so dynamic is our goal to incorporate external information from social media into our analyses. We aim to develop methods to identify potential activity-pattern motifs and coincident activity-pattern profiles from social media, which contain a wealth of information relevant to studying co-location networks. It can be both direct—‘geo-tagged’ posts—and indirect—posts mentioning a particular location; or another individual’s presence.”

Calder’s team hopes to confirm that an immediate neighborhood is not the only factor with potential to affect urban adolescents’ mental and physical well-being, but show that co-locations may have broad relevance.

They will focus on co-location networks of Franklin County adolescents, using data from the ongoing Adolescent Health and Development in Context (AHDC) Study. Combining social survey methods, smartphone-based GPS, smartphone-administered Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA; capturing real-time measures of location, social network partner presence, activities, risk behaviors and mood), and bio-measure data collection, the AHDC Study provides rich information about both the co-location network of adolescents and their consequential health exposures.

All data used in this project has been/or is being collected as part of other funded grants or is publicly available.

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