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Monday, May 6, 2013

Socioeconomic Position and Adolescent Trajectories in Smoking, Drinking, and Psychiatric Distress


Smoking, drinking, and psychiatric distress are inter-related and may also be associated with socioeconomic position (SEP). This paper investigates the role of SEP in adolescent development across all three of these outcomes.

Data were self-reported by adolescents in the Twenty-07 Study (N = 1,515) at ages 15, 17, and 18 years. Latent class analysis was used to identify homogeneous subgroups of adolescents with distinct developmental patterns. Associations between developmental patterns and a range of socioeconomic indicators were then tested.

Five classes were identified. A Low Risk class had low levels for all outcomes. A High Distress class had persistently high levels of distress, but was otherwise similar to the Low Risk group. A High Drinking class drank alcohol earlier and more heavily but also had higher levels of distress than the Low Risk group. Smokers were grouped in two classes, Early Smokers and Late Smokers, and both also had raised levels of drinking and distress. Early Smokers tended to begin earlier and smoke more heavily than Late Smokers. Relative to the Low Risk class, adolescents in a disadvantaged SEP were more likely to be Early Smokers and somewhat less likely to be in the High Drinking class. SEP was not consistently associated with membership in the High Distress or Late Smokers classes.

Associations with SEP are evident in opposing directions or absent depending on the combination and timing of outcomes, suggesting that a disadvantaged SEP is not a simple common cause for all three outcomes.

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