There is evidence to suggest clear social and economic inequalities in adolescent smoking and alcohol use.
A recent study has used data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) to examine socioeconomic inequalities in harmful adolescent substance use across 24 European countries at two time points: 2007 (n= 473,877) and 2011 (n= 471,060).
Socioeconomic inequalities are based on the highest level of parental education level relative to each country.
Results from the study show:
- There was, on average across the countries, an increase in heavy episodic drinking, but a decrease in regular smoking and cannabis use from 2007 to 2011.
- In 2007, lower socioeconomic status was associated with a significant increase in the odds of heavy episodic drinking in 10 countries and in 2011 this increased to 11 countries.
- In 2007, lower socioeconomic status was associated with a significant increase in the odds of regular smoking in 12 countries and in 2011 this increased to 15 countries.
- There were no statistical associations between socioeconomic status and cannabis use in 18 (2007) and 19 (2011) of the countries.
There was little evidence for changes in the relationship between SES and substance use over time. The researchers suggest the results show that a low prevalence of substance use does not necessarily reflect low socioeconomic inequality. The results do indicate, however, considerable variability in the relationship between socioeconomic status and adolescent substance use across countries