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Open Access Research article

Do 'good values' lead to 'good' health-behaviours? Longitudinal associations between young people's values and later substance-use

Robert Young* and Patrick West

Author Affiliations

MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-165

Published: 26 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Past studies have linked certain values (traditional vs. individualistic) with adolescent substance-use. The aims of this study are to replicate cross-sectional research linking values and adolescent substance-use and to determine if such values predict future substance-use.

Methods

A longitudinal school-based survey of 2196 young people (age 15) followed up in early adulthood (age 18/19). Participants provided data about their beliefs and values at age 15, and their substance-use (smoking, alcohol and drug-use) at ages 15 and 18/19. In addition data were collected about their social background (gender, risk-taking, deprivation, religion, etc).

Results

Cross-sectionally, young people with anti-authority values were more likely to use various substances, e.g. 17-67% more likely to regularly smoke (daily), drink (most days), or use drugs (weekly) for each SD above typical levels. Adjusting for social background, associations were not substantially attenuated. However in the prospective analysis, adjusting for both background and substance-use at age 15, only two (anti-authoritarian and work ethic) values were (marginally) associated with substance-use at age 18/19.

Conclusions

While we replicated results found in prior cross-sectional studies, evidence from this study does not support the argument that holding certain 'pro-social' or 'good' values substantively protects against later substance-use and challenges the likely effectiveness of values-based interventions in relation to later substance-use.