Page last updated: September 17, 2018

The effects of graduation requirements on risky health behaviours of high school students

A study published in the American Journal of Health Economics suggests a link between increased academic requirements and a reduction in teen drug use, drinking and smoking.

The US study analysed the relationship between the number of math and science courses that states require for a high school diploma and risky behaviour among students. Their analysis included more than 100,000 students in 47 states.

Using national survey data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), the researchers investigated the association between the level of mathematics and science high-school graduation requirements (HSGR) and high school students’ risky health behaviours--specifically on drinking, smoking, and marijuana use. They found that an increase in mathematics and science HSGR had a significant negative impact on alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students. The effects of math and science HSGR on smoking and marijuana use were also negative but generally less precisely estimated.

The researchers found increases in state math and science high school graduation requirements reduced alcohol consumption, without leading to an increase in marijuana or cigarette use. For each additional math or science course required, the odds students would drink or binge drink decreased 1.6%.Their results suggest that curriculum design may have potential as a policy tool to curb youth drinking.

While the study did not address why increased graduation requirements might reduce risky behaviour, the researchers said it is possible students who spend more time on schoolwork have less time to engage in risky behaviour.

Source: The effects of graduation requirements on risky health behaviours of high school students. Zhuang Hao and Benjamin W. Cowan American Journal of Health Economics Posted Online November 09, 2017.

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