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13-10-2011 | Article

Active youngsters less prone to substance use in later life

Abstract

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MedWire News: Participation in sports, athletics, or exercise (PSAE) in early adulthood may reduce the risk for use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs throughout adulthood, US study results indicate.

This risk falls further with increased levels of PSAE, explain the authors in the journal Addiction.

"Understanding the specific mechanisms by which PSAE may relate to lower substance use will require further research; however; the processes do appear to be related," say Yvonne Terry-McElrath (Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan) and team.

They add that as effective substance abuse prevention is often centered on minimizing susceptibility, the findings from the current study may provide guidance on new ways of lowering substance abuse rates in the young adult population.

In the study, 11,741 US adults aged 18 to 26 years self-reported use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs over a 30-day period via questionnaire.

Alcohol and marijuana use was measured on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 equaled no use during the last 30 days, 2 equaled one to two occasions of use, 3 equaled three to five occasions, 4 equaled six to nine occasions, 5 equaled 10-19 occasions, 6 equaled 20-39 occasions, and 7 equaled 40 or more occasions of use.

Smoking frequency was also measured on a scale of 1 to 7, with use equally divided between a score of 1 which was equivalent to no cigarettes smoked per day, and 7 which equaled two or more packs smoked per day.

Use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was simply reported as a yes or no answer.

Terry-McElrath and colleagues noted a significant positive correlation between PSAE levels and absence of substance use, except for alcohol use, at time of questionnaire completion and throughout later adulthood.

Of note, alcohol use rose with PSAE levels, and participation in team sports was associated with higher alcohol use frequency at age 18 compared with non-team-based PSAE.

The authors therefore advise that "high school team sports participants may be in need of targeted alcohol prevention efforts."

Terry-McElrath and co-authors conclude: "Efforts to encourage all adolescents to increase enjoyment of and participation in general exercise may result in lower substance use and abuse as youth move into early adulthood."

By Lauretta Ihonor