Background: Adolescent participation in leisure activities is developmentally beneficial, but certain activities may increase health compromising behaviours, such as tobacco smoking. A limited range of leisure activities has been studied, with little research on out-of-school settings where parental supervision is a potential protective factor. Tobacco smoking is an important, potentially modifiable health determinant, so understanding associations between adolescent leisure activities, parental monitoring, demographic factors and daily smoking may inform preventive strategies. These associations are reported for a New Zealand adolescent sample.
Methods: Randomly selected schools (n = 145) participated in the 2006 Youth In-depth Survey, a national, biennial study of Year 10 students (predominantly 14-15 years). School classes were randomly selected and students completed a self-report questionnaire in class time. Adjustment for clustering at the school level was included in all analyses. Since parental monitoring and demographic variables potentially confound relations between adolescent leisure activities and smoking, variables were screened before multivariable modelling. Given prior indications of demographic differences, gender and ethnic specific regression models were built.
Results and discussion: Overall, 8.5% of the 3,161 students were daily smokers, including more females (10.5%) than males (6.5%). In gender and ethnic specific multivariate analysis of associations with daily smoking (adjusted for age, school socioeconomic decile rating, leisure activities and ethnicity or gender, respectively), parental monitoring exhibited a consistently protective, dose response effect, although less strongly among Māori. Attending a place of worship and going to the movies were protective for non-Māori, as was watching sports, whereas playing team sport was protective for all, except males. Attending a skate park was a risk factor for females and Māori which demonstrated a strong dose response effect.
Conclusions: There were significant differences in the risk of daily smoking across leisure activities by gender and ethnicity. This reinforces the need to be alert for, and respond to, gender and ethnic differences in the pattern of risk and protective factors. However, given the consistently protective, dose response effect of parental monitoring, our findings confirm that assisting oversight of adolescent leisure activities may be a key component in public health policy and prevention programmes.