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Soc Sci Med. 2009 May;68(10):1843-51. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.02.048. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Objective and subjective social class gradients for substance use among Mexican adolescents.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, UC Berkeley School of Public Health, 101 Haviland Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7358, United States.


This study examines the shape of social class gradients for substance use among Mexican adolescents. Substance use and objective and subjective indicators of social class were assessed in house-to-house surveys conducted with 7614 Mexican adolescents in 2004. The sample was designed to be representative of the poorest urban communities in seven Mexican states. The prevalence of current smoking was 16.8%, alcohol consumption was 30.2%, and drug use was 4.6%. Multiple logistic regressions are used to estimate the associations of objective indicators of socioeconomic status (SES) and subjective social status (SSS)-at both community and societal levels-and smoking, alcohol and drug use. Adolescents who perceived themselves as higher in social status in reference to their local community reported more smoking and drinking. Our findings were similar when we used objective measures of SES, such as maternal education and total monthly household expenditures per person. In contrast, adolescents who perceived that they had high social standing in reference to Mexican society as a whole were less likely to report being current smokers and drinkers. We found no significant association between social status and drug use. Research into how adolescents perceive themselves in reference to their peer communities may help strengthen programs and policies aimed at promoting health in vulnerable adolescent populations.

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