International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 939–948 | Cite as

Health literacy and substance use in young Swiss men

  • Petra Dermota
  • Jen Wang
  • Michelle Dey
  • Gerhard Gmel
  • Joseph Studer
  • Meichun Mohler-KuoEmail author
Original Article



The purpose of the present study was to describe health literacy and its association with substance use among young men.


The present study was part of the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors that included 11,930 Swiss males participating in initial screening from August 2010 to July 2011. Self-completed questionnaires covered use of three substances and three components of health literacy.


Roughly 22 % reported having searched the Internet for health information and 16 % for information on substances over the past 12 months. At-risk and not at-risk users of alcohol (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.50 and 1.46), tobacco (AOR = 2.51 and 1.79) and cannabis (AOR = 4.86 and 3.53) searched for information about substances significantly more often via the Internet than abstainers. Furthermore, at-risk users reported better knowledge of risks associated with substance use and a marginally better ability to understand health information than abstainers.


Substance users appear to be more informed and knowledgeable about the risks of substance use than non-users. Consequently, interventions that focus only on information provision may be of limited benefit for preventing substance use.


Health literacy Substance use Alcohol Smoking Cannabis Young adults 



We are grateful to Charlotte Eidenbenz for her extensive efforts in coordinating the study. This work has been supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (33CS30_139467).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Dermota
    • 1
  • Jen Wang
    • 1
  • Michelle Dey
    • 1
  • Gerhard Gmel
    • 2
  • Joseph Studer
    • 2
  • Meichun Mohler-Kuo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Social and Preventive MedicineUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Alcohol Treatment CentreLausanne University Hospital CHUVLausanneSwitzerland

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