Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 94, Issue 6, pp 442–447 | Cite as

Association of Socio-economic Factors with Health Risk Behaviours Among High School Students in Rural Nova Scotia

  • Donald B. LangilleEmail author
  • Lori Curtis
  • Jean Hughes
  • Gail Tomblin Murphy



To determine the association of socio-economic (SES) factors with risk behaviours among adolescents.


A cross-sectional survey was carried out on students in four high schools in northern Nova Scotia, Canada. Associations between SES variables and substance use behaviours, having early intercourse and suicide attempt in the past year were examined using multivariate analysis (logit regression). Negative binomial regression was performed for associations of SES with a total risk score summing risk behaviours.


Participants included 2,198 students (48% males; 52% females) ranging in age from 14 to 20 years. Almost 25% of youth smoked regularly, 19% of males smoked marijuana >-10 times monthly, more than 40% of males regularly drank excessively, and 10% of students > 14 years old had had intercourse before age 15. Smoking was the behaviour most often associated with lower SES in both genders. Mother’s not being employed was protective against all substance use variables except driving after drinking. Living both with lone mother and in any family arrangement other than with both parents was associated with smoking, using marijuana, and early sex. Higher risk score was associated with living with a lone mother or other family arrangement. Lower risk score was associated with father having more than high school education and mother not working.


Lower socio-economic status is associated with adolescent risk behaviours. These findings point to the importance of these factors to risk-taking in youth, their relevance to social policy, and also their importance as factors to consider in targeted interventions.



Déterminer les liens entre les facteurs socio-économiques et les comportements à risque chez les adolescents.


Nous avons mené une enquête transversale auprès des élèves de quatre écoles secondaires du nord de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Les liens entre les variables socio-économiques et la consommation de drogues, les relations sexuelles précoces et les tentatives de suicide au cours de l’année précédente ont été examinés à l’aide d’une analyse multivariable (régression logistique). Nous avons procédé par régression binomiale négative pour déterminer les liens entre les facteurs socio-économiques et le score total du risque (l’addition des comportements à risque).


L’enquête a porté sur 2 198 élèves (48 % de garçons et 52 % de filles) de 14 à 20 ans. Près du quart des jeunes fumaient régulièrement, 19 % des garçons fumaient de la marijuana 10 fois par mois ou plus, plus de 40 % des garçons avaient régulièrement des épisodes de consommation excessive d’alcool, et 10 % des élèves de plus de 14 ans avaient eu des relations sexuelles avant l’âge de 15 ans. Le tabagisme était le comportement le plus souvent associé aux statuts socio-économiques inférieurs pour les deux sexes. Le fait que la mère ne travaille pas protégeait contre toutes les variables liées à la consommation de drogues, sauf l’alcool au volant. Le fait de vivre seulement avec sa mère ou dans toute configuration familiale autre qu’avec ses deux parents était associé au tabagisme, à la consommation de marijuana et aux relations sexuelles précoces. Les scores de risque élevés étaient associés au fait de vivre seulement avec sa mère ou dans une autre configuration familiale atypique. Les faibles scores de risque étaient associés au fait d’avoir un père ayant poussé ses études après l’école secondaire et une mère ne travaillant pas.


Un statut socio-économique inférieur est associé aux comportements à risque chez les adolescents. Les constatations de l’étude montrent l’importance des facteurs recensés dans la propension à prendre des risques chez les jeunes, leur pertinence pour la politique sociale, ainsi que l’importance d’en tenir compte dans les mesures d’intervention ciblées.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald B. Langille
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lori Curtis
    • 1
  • Jean Hughes
    • 2
  • Gail Tomblin Murphy
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Community Health and EpidemiologyDalhousie University, Centre for Clinical ResearchHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.School of Nursing, Faculty of Health SciencesDalhousie UniversityCanada

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