Happiness and harm awareness could keep young people from drinking and smoking

May 24, 2017, BioMed Central
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Promoting young people's levels of well-being and making them aware of the harms of smoking and drinking could keep them away from alcohol and cigarettes, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Researchers at UCL, UK found that who were happier and more aware of the harms of and cigarettes were more likely to never drink or smoke than those who were less aware or perceived themselves as less happy.

The research team found that nearly 70% of the study participants labeled themselves as persistent non-users of alcohol and cigarettes, and around 13% categorized themselves as persistent users. Those that defined themselves as persistent non-users scored highest on harm awareness and happiness tests compared to the rest of the groups.

Dr Noriko Cable, the corresponding author at UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health said: "We were surprised to find that while knowledge of alcohol and smoking related harm for most young people was associated with them never or smoking, for some adolescents harm awareness seemed to be associated with them picking up drinking or smoking. It is possible that positive expectations from drinking alcohol or may have overcome some young people's awareness of harm from using those substances. Having supportive friends did not protect adolescents from using alcohol or cigarettes."

To examine whether happiness, awareness of alcohol- or smoking-related harm or the size of friendship networks were associated with young people's drinking and smoking behavior over time, the authors used data on 1,729 adolescents (849 boys and 869 girls) aged 10 to 15 years who submitted data at two time points for the UK Longitudinal Household Study. The study has been collecting data representative of the UK population from 40,000 households every year since 2009.

Combining young people's responses from the two time points, the researchers created four categories of alcohol and cigarette use: persistent non-use - not using alcohol or cigarettes at both time points; ex-use - using alcohol or cigarettes when first asked but not at follow up a year later; initiation - non-use at first time point, but use of alcohol or cigarettes at follow up; and persistent use - use of alcohol or cigarettes when asked at both time points.

About 8% of the study group labeled themselves as ex-users and about 13% had started using alcohol or between the first time point and follow-up a year later (initiation). Young people aged 10 to 12 years were more likely to be in the persistent non-use group, whereas participants aged 13 years and over were more likely to be in the persistent user and initiation groups.

Happiness was assessed in six areas of young people's lives: school performance, looks, family, friends, school and life in general. Participants were asked to rank these areas of their lives on a scale from one (very happy) to seven (unhappy). Young people were also asked how harmful they thought various types of alcohol and cigarette use, for example occasional smoking, daily smoking, or heavy weekend drinking, were on a scale from one (no risk) to four (great risk).

This was an observational study so it can increase our understanding of young people's drinking and but it cannot show cause and effect because other factors may play a role. Dr Cable also commented that: "Because the information used in this study is self-reported, the findings should be interpreted with caution, but they do suggest that making adolescents aware of alcohol and related harm can be helpful in preventing them from engaging in risky health behaviors."

Explore further: For young adults, cigarettes more pleasurable with alcohol than with pot

More information: Noriko Cable et al, What could keep young people away from alcohol and cigarettes? Findings from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, BMC Public Health (2017). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4284-x

Related Stories

For young adults, cigarettes more pleasurable with alcohol than with pot

April 18, 2017
Young adults get more pleasure from smoking cigarettes while they are drinking alcohol than they do while using marijuana, according to a new UC San Francisco study.

Increase in e-cigarette use, decrease in smoking, is encouraging, expert says

April 20, 2015
The increase in electronic cigarette use, coupled with a decrease in smoking, could be a positive sign for the prevention of cigarette use, said Lynn Kozlowski, University at Buffalo professor of community health and health ...

E-cigarettes connected to problematic drinking, study finds

October 28, 2015
Using e-cigarettes is related to problematic drinking, according to new research published in Addictive Behaviors. In a study involving around 1400 people, researchers also found that more women than men use e-cigarettes ...

Young adults' perceptions of marijuana, cigarette and e-cigarette safety may be based on mistaken beliefs

May 5, 2017
When young people consider the potential harm of tobacco and marijuana products, their assessment may be based on mistaken beliefs about the risks of various ingredients and methods of ingesting the substances, according ...

Drinking heavily is disproportionately harmful for the poorest in society, with a greater risk of dying or becoming

May 11, 2017
Drinking heavily is disproportionately harmful for the poorest in society, with a greater risk of dying or becoming ill due to alcohol consumption.

E-cigarette use among college students—helpful aid or risky enabler?

June 30, 2016
Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use continues to rise, and current data regarding use of e-cigarettes among college students are needed. The study, "Electronic Cigarette Use Among College Students: Links to Gender, Race/Ethnicity, ...

Recommended for you

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.