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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Predictors of hazardous drinking, tobacco smoking and physical inactivity in vocational school students

Severin Haug12*, Michael P Schaub1, Corina Salis Gross1, Ulrich John2 and Christian Meyer2

Author Affiliations

1 Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction at Zurich University, Konradstrasse 32, 8031, Zurich, Switzerland

2 University of Greifswald, Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Walther-Rathenau-Str. 48, 17487, Greifswald, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:475  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-475

Published: 15 May 2013



Tobacco smoking, hazardous drinking and physical inactivity during adolescence are risk factors that are associated with poorer health in adulthood. The identification of subgroups of young people with a high prevalence of one or more of these risk factors allows an optimised allocation of preventive measures. This study aimed at investigating hazardous drinking, tobacco smoking and physical inactivity as well as their associations and demographic predictors in vocational school students.


Out of 57 contacted vocational schools in Switzerland, a total of 24 schools participated in a survey assessing gender, age, immigrant background, educational attainment and vocational field as well as the above mentioned health risk factors. Out of the 2659 students present in 177 included vocational school classes, 2647 (99.5%) completed the survey. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to investigate the demographic predictors of each health risk factor and a multinomial logistic regression analysis was conducted to investigate predictors of different risk factor combinations.


Of the surveyed students, 79.4% showed at least one risk factor, 43.6% showed two or more and 9.6% showed all three health risk factors. Hazardous drinking was more prevalent in male, physical inactivity was more prevalent in female vocational school students. The proportion of students with low physical activity and tobacco smoking increased with increasing age. While the combination of hazardous drinking and tobacco smoking was higher in males, the other risk factor combinations were observed particularly among females.


Multiple risk factors were ascertained in a significant proportion of vocational school students. Specifically, tobacco smoking and hazardous drinking were coexistent. The study underlines the need for preventive measures in specific subpopulations of adolescents and young adults with lower educational level.

Health behaviour; Health risk factors; Adolescents; Young adults; Students