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Adolescent substance use and educational attainment: An integrative data analysis comparing cannabis and alcohol from three Australasian cohorts


Silins, E and Fergusson, DM and Patton, GC and Horwood, LJ and Olsson, CA and Hutchinson, DM and Degenhardt, L and Tait, RJ and Borschmann, R and Coffey, C and Toumbourou, JW and Najman, JM and Mattick, RP and Allsop, S and Bruno, R and Copeland, J and Hayatbakhsh, R and Letcher, P and Plotnikova, M and Skinner, SR and Spry, E and Swift, W and Youssef, G, Adolescent substance use and educational attainment: An integrative data analysis comparing cannabis and alcohol from three Australasian cohorts, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 156 pp. 90-96. ISSN 0376-8716 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.08.034


© 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. Background: The relative contributions of cannabis and alcohol use to educational outcomes are unclear. We examined the extent to which adolescent cannabis or alcohol use predicts educational attainment in emerging adulthood. Methods: Participant-level data were integrated from three longitudinal studies from Australia and New Zealand (Australian Temperament Project, Christchurch Health and Development Study, and Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study). The number of participants varied by analysis (N= 2179-3678) and were assessed on multiple occasions between ages 13 and 25. We described the association between frequency of cannabis or alcohol use prior to age 17 and high school non-completion, university non-enrolment, and degree non-attainment by age 25. Two other measures of alcohol use in adolescence were also examined. Results: After covariate adjustment using a propensity score approach, adolescent cannabis use (weekly+) was associated with 11/2 to two-fold increases in the odds of high school non-completion (OR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.09-2.35), university non-enrolment (OR = 1.51, 95% CI = 1.06-2.13), and degree non-attainment (OR = 1.96, 95% CI = 1.36-2.81). In contrast, adjusted associations for all measures of adolescent alcohol use were inconsistent and weaker. Attributable risk estimates indicated adolescent cannabis use accounted for a greater proportion of the overall rate of non-progression with formal education than adolescent alcohol use. Conclusions: Findings are important to the debate about the relative harms of cannabis and alcohol use. Adolescent cannabis use is a better marker of lower educational attainment than adolescent alcohol use and identifies an important target population for preventive intervention.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Adolescence; Alcohol; Cannabis; Educational outcomes
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Bruno, R (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
ID Code:119910
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:59
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2017-08-07
Last Modified:2017-11-07

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