Student survey trends in reported alcohol use and influencing factors in Australia

John W. Toumbourou, Bosco Rowland, Matin Ghayour-Minaie, Shauna Sherker, George C. Patton, Joanne W. Williams

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Introduction and Aims: There is a need to explain reported trends of reduced alcohol and drug (substance) use in school-aged children in Australia. This study used student survey data collected in the states of Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland to examine trends in substance use and associated influencing factors. Design and Methods: Youth self-reports were examined from 11 cross-sectional surveys completed by 41 328 adolescents (average age 13.5 years, 52.5% female) across 109 Australian communities between 1999 and 2015. Multi-level modelling was used to identify trends in adolescent reports of lifetime alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use, adjusted for age, gender, social disadvantage and minority status. Trends in influencing factors were also examined that included: individual attitudes, and family, school and community environments. Multivariate analyses estimated the main contributors to alcohol use trends. Results: Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use all fell significantly from 1999 to 2015. Higher levels of use were observed in Victoria compared to Western Australia or Queensland. Multivariate analyses identified reductions in favourable parent attitudes and lower availability of substances as direct contributors to reducing alcohol use trends. Indicators of school and family adjustment did not show similar trend reductions. Discussion and Conclusions: Reductions in adolescent alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use from 1999 to 2015 were associated with similar reductions in parent favourable attitudes and availability of substances. It is plausible that a reduced tendency for parents and other adults to supply adolescent alcohol are implicated in the reductions in adolescent alcohol use observed across Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S58-S66
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • alcohol
  • risk factors
  • school surveys
  • tobacco

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