Do 'good values' lead to 'good' health-behaviours? Longitudinal associations between young people's values and later substance-use

BMC Public Health. 2010 Mar 26:10:165. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-165.


Background: Past studies have linked certain values (traditional vs. individualistic) with adolescent substance-use. The aims of this study are to replicate cross-sectional research linking values and adolescent substance-use and to determine if such values predict future substance-use.

Methods: A longitudinal school-based survey of 2196 young people (age 15) followed up in early adulthood (age 18/19). Participants provided data about their beliefs and values at age 15, and their substance-use (smoking, alcohol and drug-use) at ages 15 and 18/19. In addition data were collected about their social background (gender, risk-taking, deprivation, religion, etc).

Results: Cross-sectionally, young people with anti-authority values were more likely to use various substances, e.g. 17-67% more likely to regularly smoke (daily), drink (most days), or use drugs (weekly) for each SD above typical levels. Adjusting for social background, associations were not substantially attenuated. However in the prospective analysis, adjusting for both background and substance-use at age 15, only two (anti-authoritarian and work ethic) values were (marginally) associated with substance-use at age 18/19.

Conclusions: While we replicated results found in prior cross-sectional studies, evidence from this study does not support the argument that holding certain 'pro-social' or 'good' values substantively protects against later substance-use and challenges the likely effectiveness of values-based interventions in relation to later substance-use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk-Taking
  • Scotland
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Values*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult