Teenagers who have money, freedom and distracted parents are more likely to experiment with drugs, according to a new study from researchers at Arizona State University. Before determining that wealthy teenagers were consuming alcohol and illicit drugs at higher rates than their middle class or lower class peers, researchers gathered data from the New England Study of Suburban Youth, specifically looking at two different studies. One study followed teenagers from 12th grade through college, and another study followed teenagers from 12th grade until five years after completing college. After assessing the data gathered from these studies, the researchers were able to determine that white, wealthy teenagers were more likely to binge drink and experiment with drugs than teenagers who grew up with less money.
A closer look at the surveys show that wealthy high school students report using more drugs than the national average. While in college these students also reported being drunk more than their less wealthy peers, and more frequent use of illicit drugs. Marijuana, stimulants and cocaine were all drugs of choice for these wealthy students.
The researchers were also interested in how this increased drug and alcohol use affected adulthood. According to the studies, ecstasy, cigarettes and tranquilizers were consumed at higher rates. And by the time males who grew up in wealthy households turned 27, they were twice as likely to be diagnosed with a drug or alcohol addiction.
Additionally, females from these families were three times as likely to be diagnosed with an addiction problem.
One interesting component of the study looked at parental involvement during high school and college years. The researchers noted that parents who were more involved in their child’s lives could reduce the chances of marijuana and stimulant use later on in their child’s life.
“These results highlight the central role of schools and peers in driving social norms and expectations affecting mental and behavioral health,” explained the authors of the study.