Background: The aim was to assess the relationships between social and material deprivation and the use of tobacco, excessive alcohol and psychotropic drugs by both sexes and in various age groups. Greater knowledge concerning these issues may help public health policy-makers design more effective means of preventing substance abuse.
Methods: The sample comprised 6,216 people aged > or 15 years randomly selected from the population in north-eastern France. Subjects completed a post-mailed questionnaire covering socio-demographic characteristics, occupation, employment, income, smoking habit, alcohol abuse and "psychotropic" drug intake (for headache, tiredness, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia). A deprivation score (D) was defined by the cumulative number of: low educational level, manual worker, unemployed, living alone, nationality other than western European, low income, and non-home-ownership. Data were analysed using adjusted odds ratios (ORa) computed with logistic models.
Results: Deprivation was common: 37.4% of respondents fell into category D = 1, 21.2% into D = 2, and 10.0% into D > or 3a re men than women reported tobacco use (30.2% vs. 21.9%) and alcohol abuse (12.5% vs. 3.3%), whereas psychotropic drug use was more common among women (23.8% vs. 41.0%). Increasing levels of deprivation were associated with a greater likelihood of tobacco use (ORa vs. D = 0: 1.16 in D = 1, 1.49 in D = 2, and 1.93 in D > or = 3), alcohol abuse (1.19 in D = 1, 1.32 in D = 2, and 1.80 in D > or = 3) and frequent psychotropic drug intake (1.26 in D = 1, 1.51 in D = 2, and 1.91 in D > or = 3). These patterns were observed in working/other non-retired men and women (except for alcohol abuse in women). Among retired people, deprivation was associated with tobacco and psychotropic drug use only in men.
Conclusion: Preventive measures should be designed to improve work conditions, reduce deprivation, and help deprived populations to be more aware of risk and to find remedial measures.