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Research has revealed that young adults who smoke or have attended institution of higher education (college or university) are more likely to drink heavily.

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The research was led by a group of researchers from University of Glasgow in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. The study aimed to analyze in greater detail regarding how higher education and young adult smoking relate to alcohol consumption.

The study has been published in Addiction, which was based on the research from across Scotland, England, and Wales. The research revealed that those from a less privileged family background were less likely to pursue higher education and more likely to smoke.

Young adult smokers were more likely to drink weekly as a young adult. On the other hand, young adults engaged in higher education were also more likely to drink heavily during early adulthood. These findings were revealed across all three research articles from across Scotland, England, and Wales.

Dr Michael Green commented: “What this study shows are the different pathways – smoking and higher education – into heavy drinking, depending on young people's socioeconomic backgrounds. These opposing pathways might help explain why previous research on inequalities in young people's drinking has had inconsistent results.

“It appears that heavy drinking in early adulthood is more likely for both adolescent smokers and those who go to university or college. That would suggest that the pathways to heavy drinking are more varied and opposing than had been previously thought.”

The research evaluated higher education as those that are 18 years old or above who pursue in full-time education, while heavy drinking was evaluated as over 21 units per week for men and over 14 units for women. The authors assume that the research might have suggestions for how drinking issues are targeted and tackled in adolescence.

Dr Green noted: “Currently interventions focused only on heavy drinking in universities/colleges are targeting a more advantaged population and may neglect more disadvantaged drinkers. 
“There may be common causes affecting disadvantaged young people that lead to both smoking and heavy drinking. If we can identify and understand these it may be easier to intervene to prevent both.”

The research ‘Adolescent Smoking and Tertiary Education: Opposing Pathways linking Socioeconomic Background to Alcohol Consumption’ is published in the journal Addiction.

The work was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

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