A study investigated the association between childhood academic ability and the onset and persistence of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use across adolescence in a representative sample of school pupils in England.
Data was collected from 6,059 participants of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), 2004–2010 (3,093 females) with information on academic ability around age 11 and health behaviours from age 13/14 to 16/17 (early adolescence) and from age 18/19 to 19/20 (late adolescence). Data on the regularity of cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking and cannabis use from early to late adolescence was collected from self-completed questionnaires during home visits, face-to-face interviews and web-based questionnaires.
High (vs low) academic ability was found to reduce the risk of persistent cigarette smoking (RR=0.62; CI 95% 0.48 to 0.81) in early adolescence. High (vs low) academic ability increased the risk of occasional (RR=1.25; CI 95% 1.04 to 1.51) and persistent (RR=1.83; CI 95% 1.50 to 2.23) regular alcohol drinking in early adolescence and persistent (RR=2.28; CI 95% 1.84 to 2.82) but not occasional regular alcohol drinking in late adolescence. High academic ability was also positively associated with occasional (RR=1.83; CI 95% 1.50 to 2.23) and persistent (RR=1.83; CI 95% 1.50 to 2.23) cannabis use in late adolescence.
The authors conclude that in this study group, high childhood academic success at age 11 is associated with a reduced risk of cigarette smoking but an increased risk of drinking alcohol regularly and cannabis use. These associations persist into early adulthood, providing evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary ‘experimentation’ with substance use.
Source: Childhood academic ability in relation to cigarette, alcohol and cannabis use from adolescence into early adulthood: Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).J Williams, G Hagger-Johnson. BMJ Volume 7, Issue 2.