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Low stress resilience in late adolescence and risk of smoking, high alcohol consumption and drug use later in life


Background While compromised stress resilience constitutes a recognised risk factor for somatic and psychiatric disease development in general, the knowledge about how individual variation in vulnerability to stress may specifically influence the long-term risks of disadvantageous health behaviours is limited.

Methods In this Swedish cohort study, we aimed to investigate the association between stress resilience in late adolescence and adult use of addictive substances. We included 9381 men with information on psychological stress resilience measured during military conscription examinations, who later responded to an extensive health survey (mean age 34.0±7.2 years) including detailed information on substance use. We modelled continuous outcomes using linear regression, binary outcomes with logistic regression and other categorical outcomes with multinomial logistic regression.

Results We found that low stress resilience in adolescence conferred increased risks of all studied measures of addictive behaviour. After adjusting for childhood socioeconomic information, low stress resilience was associated with adult current regular smoking (relative risk ratio: 5.85, 95% CI 4.32 to 7.93), higher nicotine dependence scores (beta: 0.76, 95% CI 0.29 to 1.23), hazardous use of alcohol (>14 alcoholic drink-equivalents per week, OR: 1.72, 95% CI 1.37 to 2.16), DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence (OR: 1.74, 95% CI 1.35 to 2.25), and drug use (OR: 1.77, 95% CI 1.51 to 2.08). The results remained largely unchanged after further adjustments for adult educational attainment and occupation as well as for additional conscription covariates.

Conclusion Low stress resilience in late adolescence appears to be associated with an increased risk of disadvantageous and addictive health behaviours in adulthood.

  • epidemiology
  • health behaviour
  • psychological stress
  • smoking
  • alcohol

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