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Can J Psychiatry. 2019 May;64(5):313-322. doi: 10.1177/0706743718792189. Epub 2018 Aug 2.

An Epidemiological Study of Substance Use Disorders Among Emerging and Young Adults.

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1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
3 School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.



We investigated the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) among emerging adults and quantified the extent to which emerging adults, compared with young adults, have increased odds for SUDs.


Data were from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-MH). Respondents were 15 to 39 y of age ( n = 9228) and were categorized as: early emerging adults (15 to 22 y); late emerging adults (23 to 29 y); and, young adults (30 to 39 y). SUDs [alcohol or drug abuse/dependence (AAD or DAD)] were measured using the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0. The prevalence of SUDs was compared across age groups, and odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were computed from logistic regression models adjusting for sociodemographic and health covariates. Analyses were weighted to maintain representativeness to the Canadian population.


The prevalence of AAD was 8.0%, 6.6%, and 2.7% for early emerging adults, late emerging adults, and young adults, respectively. For DAD, the prevalence was 6.4%, 3.6%, and 1.3%. After covariate adjustment, early and late emerging adults had greater odds of reporting AAD (OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 2.2 to 4.9 and OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.6 to 3.4, respectively) or DAD (OR = 4.2, 95% CI = 2.5 to 7.0 and OR = 2.5, 95% CI = 1.6 to 4.1, respectively) compared with young adults. Differences between early and late emerging adults were not significant.


Emerging adults are at increased odds for SUDs. Lack of differences between early and late emerging adults provide evidence of the extension of emerging adulthood into the late 20s. Findings have implications for the provision of screening and treatment of SUDs during this developmental period.


alcohol abuse; alcohol dependence; drug abuse; drug dependence; emerging adult; substance use disorder; young adult


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