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Open Access Research article

Social inequalities in changes in health-related behaviour among Slovak adolescents aged between 15 and 19: A longitudinal study

Ferdinand Salonna1, Jitse P van Dijk12, Andrea Madarasova Geckova1, Maria Sleskova1, Johan W Groothoff2 and Sijmen A Reijneveld2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Educational Psychology and Health Psychology, Faculty of Arts, P.J. Safarik University, Moyzesova 16, 040 01 Kosice, Slovakia

2 Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:57  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-57

Published: 12 February 2008

Abstract

Background

Lower socioeconomic position is generally associated with higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption and lower levels of physical activity. Health-related behaviour is usually established during late childhood and adolescence. The aim of this study is to explore changes in health-related behaviour in a cohort of adolescents aged between 15 and 19, overall and by socioeconomic position.

Methods

The sample consisted of 844 first-year students (42.8% males, baseline in 1998 – mean age 14.9, follow-up in 2002 – mean age 18.8) from 31 secondary schools located in Kosice, Slovakia. This study focuses on changes in adolescents' smoking, alcohol use, experience with marijuana and lack of physical exercise with regard to their socioeconomic position. Four indicators of socioeconomic position were used – adolescents' current education level and employment status, and the highest education level and highest occupational status of their parents. We first made cross tabulations of HRB with these four indicators, using McNemar's test to assess differences. Next, we used logistic regression to assess adjusted associations, using likelihood ratio tests to assess statistical significance.

Results

Statistically significant increases were found in all health-related behaviours. Among males, the most obvious socioeconomic gradient was found in smoking, both at age 15 and at 19. Variations in socioeconomic differences in health-related behaviour were more apparent among females. Although at age 15, almost no socioeconomic differences in health-related behaviour were found, at age 19 differences were found for almost all socioeconomic indicators. Among males, only traditional socioeconomic gradients were found (the lower the socioeconomic position, the higher the prevalence of potentially harmful health-related behaviour), while among females reverse socioeconomic gradients were also found.

Conclusion

We confirmed an increase in unhealthy health-related behaviour during adolescence. This increase was related to socioeconomic position, and was more apparent in females.