A new study paints gang involvement as a public health risk that can negatively influence a person's life even after he or she is no longer in a gang.
For the last 29 years, University of Washington researchers conducted lengthy triennial interviews with a group of 808 people. Subjects were 10 years old when the study began, and as they aged, interviewers integrated questions about gang and criminal activity.
Two decades later, more than 90 percent of the original group is still involved with the study.
Among participants in the study, which is currently available on the American Journal of Public Health's website, 21 percent reported joining a gang during their teenage years.
Researchers compared 173 participants who had reported joining a gang with peers from similar backgrounds who never reported gang involvement.
“Those who had joined a gang in adolescence had poorer outcomes in multiple areas of adult functioning, including higher rates of self-reported crime, receipt of illegal income, incarceration, drug abuse or dependence, poor general health, and welfare receipt and lower rates of high school graduation,” the study's authors wrote.
Throughout their adult lives, the study found, those who has previously been members of gangs, were significantly more likely to be continuously involved in the criminal justice system.
Adults who had been in gangs were twice as likely to have been incarcerated during the previous year, and nearly three times as likely to report having committed a crime.
Current and former gang members were also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, receive public assistance and report mental or physical illness.
The full study is available for purchase HERE.