The complex interplay between socioeconomic position, substance use and psychological distress among young adults in the Brussels-Capital Region

Hadewijch Vandenheede, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Hannelore De Grande, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Emerging adulthood is an especially vulnerable period in terms of health risks. Amongst other diseases, psychiatric disorders are common. Research has shown that mental health problems are related to other health and developmental concerns in young adulthood and in later life, such as school dropout, job insecurity and dependency disorders. Furthermore, many studies found a link between mental health problems and substance use. In this study, we wish to focus on the complex interplay of mental health and substance use with socioeconomic position among young adults in the metropolitan context of the Brussels-Capital Region. Although an inverse relation between socioeconomic position and health has been established for many health indicators and in most age groups, the direction of the relation between socioeconomic position and mental health in young adulthood is not clear-cut. To probe into these relations, we used pooled data of three waves (2001, 2004 and 2008) of the Health Interview Survey (HIS) Belgium, selecting only persons aged 18 to 30 (N=1,187). Multinomial and binary logistic regression analyses were conducted, with substance use and psychological distress as the dependent variables. In line with previous research, we find a strong association between substance use and psychological distress. Furthermore, abstinence levels are high in our study, and especially apparent among lower educated persons of foreign descent. Tobacco use is very high among the lower educated, while alcohol and cannabis use are more common among the higher educated. As for psychological distress, no significant relation was found with educational level after controlling for substance use.

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Presented in Session 66: Determinants of distress and depression