CO4.3: Substance abuse by young people

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1 Definitions and methodology CO4.3: Substance abuse by young people Smoking cannabis and getting drunk are behaviours which negatively affect one s health status. In general, such behaviour is associated with adults, but at age 15 many teenagers have experience with cannabis and excessive alcohol consumption. This indicator presents information on the proportion of 15 years olds who have been drunk at least twice in their life, and reports the proportion of teenagers which have used cannabis in the 30 days prior to responding to the survey. The information on alcohol abuse is based on survey-data as compiled through the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey 2009/10 (HBSC see below for more information), while the information on cannabis abuse is based on the 2005/06 survey. The HBSC survey collects information on many socio-economic factors that affect health behaviour among children. This indicator further presents information on the prevalence of drinking by family structure and family affluence. Family structure is defined by whether the child lives with both or just one parent, while family affluence is defined by the Family Affluence Scale (FAS) calculated based on responses to the survey. The FAS scale is based on a composite measure calculated for each surveyed student based on their response to questions about household possessions. A three point ordinal scale is used, where FAS low (score=0,1,2) indicates low affluence, FAS medium (score=3,4,5) indicates middle affluence, and FAS high (score=6,7,8,9) indicates high affluence. For more information please see Currie et al. (2012). Key findings On average across the OECD about one-third of the 15 year olds have been drunk twice, while this was over half in Denmark (Chart CO 4.3.A). Drunkenness is least common among teenagers in the United States. As with smoking (CO1.8), having been drunk predominantly concerns boys. However, British, Canadian, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish girls are more likely to have been drunk than boys in these countries. Chart CO4.3.A: Proportion of 15 year-olds who have been drunk at least twice, 2009/10 Country averages are unweighted. Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2009/2010 Other relevant indicators: CO1.8: Regular smokers among 15 year olds; and CO4.4: Teenage suicides. 1

2 Chart CO4.3.B Proportion of 15 year-olds who have been drunk at least twice by gender, 2009/10 Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2009/2010 The incidence of drunkenness may not be widespread amongst American and Canadian youngsters, but together with their Spanish peers they are the most likely to have smoked cannabis over the last month across the population of OECD teenagers. By contrast, 15 year olds in Greece, Finland and Sweden are the least likely to report cannabis use during the past 30 days. Across the OECD, girls are less likely to use cannabis than boys, but gender differences are small in Austria, the Czech Republic and Spain. Chart CO4.3.C Proportion of 15 year-olds who have used cannabis in the last 30 days, 2005/06 Country averages unweighted Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2005/2006 2

3 Chart CO4.3.D Proportion of 15 year-olds who have used cannabis in the last 30 days by gender, 2005/06 Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2005/2006 Prevalence of drinking by socio-economic characteristics Chart CO4.3.E presents the prevalence of drinking (proportion that have been drunk at least twice) among 15 year olds by family structure based on whether the child lives with both parents or just one parent. The data show that in all OECD countries, for which data are available, children living with two parents are less likely to have been drunk than children living with just one parent. The difference is particularly big, at around 9 percentage points or more, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and the United Kingdom. While the difference is small at in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, at less than 4 percentage points. Chart CO4.3.E Proportion of 15 year-olds who have been drunk at least twice, by household structure, 2009/10 Percentage of children living with 1 1. Data is not available for children who do not live with either parent, often under foster care. Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2009/

4 Unlike for the prevalence of smoking (see indicator CO1.8) there seems to be a less obvious relationship between the prevalence of drinking and family affluence (Chart CO4.3.F). In only 19 of the 26 countries for which data are available, is the prevalence of drinking among children in less affluent households (low FAS) greater than for children in more affluent households (high FAS). The prevalence of drinking among children in less affluent households is much greater than children in more affluent households (more than 5 percentage points greater) in Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway and the United States. Chart CO1.8.D Proportion of 15 year-olds who have been drunk at least twice, by family affluence, 2009/2010 Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2009/2010. Comparability and data issues Self-reported data on smoking have been taken from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (HBSC) 2009/10 for drinking and 2005/06 for cannabis smoking (questions on cannabis use were was not included in the HBSC 2009/10 wave). The last data collection includes most OECD countries. These data come from confidential surveys of young people, and may be subject to response bias. Sample selection methods differ across countries. The sample sizes are similar for each country, while the population sizes differ markedly, so that the potential for error in sample-representativeness is much larger for the United States than for the Netherlands. HBSC data were collected separately for Flemish- and French-speaking communities in Belgium, while data for the United Kingdom reflect results for England, Scotland and Wales (data for Northern Ireland is not included). This indicator presents one value for Belgium and the United Kingdom on basis of a population-weighted average. The prevalence of drinking by socio-economic groups are descriptive and are not regressed with control factors, thus the differences may not be directly and exclusively related to characteristics of the socio-economic groups defined here, but could also be due to other related factors. While the HBSC survey includes information on many factors, only the major socio-economic factors are presented where the difference in the prevalence of smoking is statistically significant across most countries. 4

5 Sources and further reading: Currie et al. (2012). Social determinants of health and well-being among young people. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: international report from the 2009/2010 survey, ( 5

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