University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Smoking from Adolescence to Adulthood
A 15-year Follow-up of the North Karelia Youth Project
Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
The aim of the study was to examine the effects of a smoking prevention program and smoking from early adolescence to early adulthood by using longitudinal data. In addition, predictors of smoking, smoking cessation, and associations of smoking with socio-economic factors and other health behaviours were assessed.
The data was gathered in connection with the North Karelia Youth Project follow-up study during 15 years. A two-year cardiovascular disease risk factor prevention program was carried out among students from grades seven to nine in four schools in North Karelia. Two schools were selected from Kuopio province for the control schools. The North Karelia Project, a community-based cardiovascular disease prevention program, was implemented in the same area. At the baseline in 1978 the subjects were 13-year-olds (n=903) and in the following surveys 15-, 16-, 17-, 21- and 28-year-olds. The parents of the subjects were studied twice, in 1978 and 1980.
A two-year intervention based on social influence approach prevented the onset of smoking for several years. The continuity of smoking from adolescence to adulthood was strong: most adolescent smokers were still smoking in adulthood. Moreover, approximately half of the 28-year-old smokers had started smoking after the age of 15. Previous smoking status and smoking by friends were the most important predictors of smoking. One third of all adolescent smokers had stopped smoking before the age of 28, averaging at 2.3 % annual decline. The socioeconomic status of the subject and, especially, education were strongly related to smoking, the lower socioeconomic groups smoking the most. Parental socioeconomic status and intergenerational social mobility were not significantly related to the smoking of the subject in adolescence or adulthood. Smoking was associated positively with the use of alcohol and negatively with physical activity from adolescence to adulthood.
The results support the feasibility of a school-based social influence program with a community-based program in smoking prevention among adolescents. Strong continuity of smoking from adolescence to adulthood supports the importance of preventing the onset of smoking in adolescence. It would be useful to continue prevention programs also after the comprehensive school, since so many young start smoking after that. It would likewise be important to develop cessation programs tailor-made for adolescents and young adults. Additionally, the results support the importance of using methods based on social influence in smoking prevention and cessation programs, targeting especially such risk groups as those with low socioeconomic status as well as those with other unhealthy behaviours.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 20.11.2006