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Bol Asoc Med P R. 2006 Jul-Sep;98(3):186-91.

Alcohol use among adolescents in Puerto Rico: the influence of physical and social neighborhood disorder.



The characteristics of social settings are increasingly being recognized as important factors influencing the health of individuals. This study examines the association of neighborhood physical and social disorganization with alcohol consumption in a sample of adolescents 12- to 15-years-old residing in communities of the San Juan metropolitan area with high availability of illicit drugs.


The sampling frame was developed encompassing all census sectors in three municipalities of the San Juan metropolitan area with outdoor illegal drug-selling areas operating within them. Consent from parents and their adolescent offspring was obtained from 691 of these households for a response rate of 96%. Alcohol use was measured by asking adolescents if they had consumed alcohol during the last 12 months. Neighborhood social disorganization included hearing gunfire in the neighborhood, seeing neighbors selling stolen merchandise and drugs, vandalism, neighbors using alcohol and drugs, and seeing persons carrying weapons. Neighborhood physical disorganization included the presence of abandoned vehicles and buildings in the neighborhood, graffiti, and places where people go to inject drugs.


Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that older participants were more likely to use alcohol. Neighborhood social disorder was significantly associated with alcohol use. The strong positive gradient between neighborhood social disorder and alcohol use remained highly significant after controlling by sociodemographic characteristics. In contrast, neighborhood physical disorder was not significantly associated with alcohol use.


These findings suggest that social signs of neighborhood disorganization have a more direct influence over adolescents' behaviors than the physical signs. Health professionals need to be cognizant of the strong effects that social environments have on adolescents and develop strategies to address these when intervening with adolescents.

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