Multiple risk behaviours in adolescence

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Experimentation with substances and sexual activity are common activities among adolescents, yet few studies examine whether these behaviours are inter-dependent. Participation in multiple concurrent risky behaviours can increase the potential for negative health outcomes. Identifying whether or not behaviours are clustered can identify which patterns of behaviours present the most potential risk, while identifying characteristics of young people engaged in particular clusters can assist in developing and targeting preventative interventions appropriately. This study aimed to explore clustering of substance use and sexual behaviours among adolescents in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Secondary data analysis was conducted on two regional data sets, Scotland (Nunweighted = 2489, aged 14 - 16) and Northern Ireland (NI) (Nunweighted = 1405, aged 14-18), to investigate the clustering of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and sexual activity and socio-demographic variations in engagement. 3.3% of
the NI sample reported lifetime engagement in all four behaviours, and they were significantly clustered, with 24 times more young people reporting these concurrent behaviours than expected. A considerably higher proportion of the Scottish sample reported lifetime engagement in all four behaviours (9.9%), and again these were significantly clustered with 11 times more young people engaging in these 4 concurrent behaviours than expected. Additionally there were variations in clustering across both samples by gender and socio-demographic characteristics. Although typically considered developmentally normal experimentation with risky behaviours, an understanding of the inter-dependent nature of these behaviours and the consequential accumulation of health risks is necessary to appropriately support and safeguard young people. The findings here highlight the interdependent nature of these risk behaviours, and variations across socio-demographic characteristics, identifying potential areas for intervention and highlighting regional differences within the UK worthy of further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018


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