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Open Access Research article

Alcohol and cannabis use among adolescents in Flemish secondary school in Brussels: effects of type of education

Hans Berten1*, Dries Cardoen1, Ruben Brondeel2 and Nicole Vettenburg1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social Welfare Studies, H. Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

2 Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, H. Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:215  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-215

Published: 20 March 2012



Research regarding socio-economic differences in alcohol and drug use in adolescence yields mixed results. This study hypothesizes that (1) when using education type as a proxy of one's social status, clear differences will exist between students from different types of education, regardless of students' familial socio-economic background; (2) and that the effects of education type differ according to their cultural background.


Data from the Brussels youth monitor were used, a school survey administered among 1,488 adolescents from the 3rd to 6th year of Flemish secondary education. Data were analyzed using multilevel logistic regression models.


Controlling for their familial background, the results show that native students in lower educational tracks use alcohol and cannabis more often than students in upper educational tracks. Such a relationship was not found for students from another ethnic background.


Results from this study indicate that research into health risks should take into account both adolescents' familial background and individual social position as different components of youngsters' socio-economic background.