Adolescents with higher socio economic status at greater risk for substance abuse during early adulthood

Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368

Previous research has shown that adolescents with low socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to engage in substance abuse, as are adults with high SES. Yet a new study reveals that adolescents with high SES (measured by parental education and household income) are also at risk for substance abuse. It found that higher SES among adolescents was associated with greater rates of binge drinking and marijuana and cocaine use in early adulthood. There was no significant correlation between high SES in adolescence and crystal methamphetamine or other drug use.

Study author, Jennifer Humensky, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, analyzed data on 9,872 adolescents taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth). AddHealth tracks students in grades 7-12 and their parents, and includes a follow-up interview when respondents are 18-27 years old. Results showed that higher parental education was associated with higher odds of binge drinking and marijuana use and cocaine use in early adulthood. Higher household income in adolescence was associated with a higher probability of binge drinking and marijuana use.

When stratified by race, results were consistent for whites but no significant results were found for non-whites. This may be related to the smaller sample size of the non-white sample, but it could be that the results are driven primarily by white respondents, notes the author.

The results of the study are consistent with previous research in adults, which found that demand for illicit substances is price-sensitive, and thus predicts that substance abuse will increase as income is higher. This study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00084).

See "Are adolescents with high socioeconomic status more likely to engage in alcohol and illicit drug use in early adulthood?" by Dr. Humensky in Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 5 (19), pp.1-10, 2010.

Current as of April 2011
Internet Citation: Adolescents with higher socio economic status at greater risk for substance abuse during early adulthood: Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368. April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr11/0411RA25.html