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Psychol Addict Behav. 2013 Sep;27(3):901-8. doi: 10.1037/a0032900. Epub 2013 Aug 5.

Subjective social status and substance use severity in a young adult sample.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California.


Subjective social status (SSS), an individual's subjective view of standing in society, has been shown to better predict health outcomes compared to objective measures of socioeconomic status (SES), including educational attainment and income. This study examines the relationship between SSS and severity of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use after controlling for objective measures of SES. Young adults (N = 1,987) aged 18-25 who reported smoking at least one cigarette in the past 30 days were recruited and surveyed anonymously online. Three separate structural equation models examined whether SSS was associated with severity of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use, controlling for personal and household income, years of education, employment status, and parental education. Household income (b = .31), employment status (b = .07), years of education (b = .09), and parental education (b = .16) were positively associated with SSS (all p values < .001); personal income was not significantly associated with SSS (p = .11). All three models adequately fit the data. SSS was negatively associated with severity of tobacco (b = -.13, p < .001) and marijuana use (b = -36, p = .02), but not alcohol use severity (b = .01, p = .56). Among young adults, higher subjective social status is associated with less severe tobacco and marijuana use, whereas alcohol use severity appears to be similar across socioeconomic class.

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