Impacts of Gang Involvement on Health and Well-Being: The Perilous Dimensions of Leisure

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Extant studies on gangs have primarily focused on the adverse effects of gang activity on communities and risk factors for involvement, while information on the impacts of engagement in deviant leisure activities associated with gangs on the health and well-being of gang members is lacking. Therefore, using constructivist grounded theory and the biopsychosocial model, this study explored the impacts of gang affiliation and related leisure on the physical and mental well-being and life prospects of former gang members. Data were collected through 39 in-depth interviews with 38 former gang members and recreation practitioners working with gangs. Findings revealed that gang-related leisure was detrimental to physical health, leading to acquired addictions, injuries, and disabilities. Mental health consequences included depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, emotional detachment, and anger issues. These psychological traumas, guilt, self-doubts, trust issues, and the stigma of gang membership negatively affected their social relations and life prospects.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalLeisure Sciences
StateE-pub ahead of print - Apr 21 2024


  • Biopsychosocial model
  • well-being
  • health
  • gangs
  • deviant leisure


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