Multiple risk behaviour in adolescence and socio-economic status: findings from a UK birth cohort

Eur J Public Health. 2015 Feb;25(1):44-9. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku078. Epub 2014 Jun 23.


Background: Patterns of risk behaviour during teenage years may vary by socio-economic status (SES). We aimed to examine possible associations between individual and multiple risk behaviours and three measures of SES in mid-adolescence.

Methods: The sample (n = 6406) comprised participants from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK birth cohort. Thirteen risk behaviours spanning sexual health, substance use, self-harm, vehicle-related injury, criminality and physical inactivity were assessed in mid-adolescence (age 15-16 years). Associations between three measures of SES (maternal education, household income and parental social class) and (i) individual risk behaviours and (ii) the total number of risk behaviours were examined.

Results: For a one-category reduction in social class, maternal education or income, the odds of having a greater number of multiple risk behaviours increased by 22, 15 and 12%, respectively. At the individual level, there was evidence of a strong relationship with decreasing SES across all three measures of SES and criminality, car passenger risk, TV viewing, scooter risk, early sexual behaviour and weekly tobacco use but insufficient evidence of a relationship for physical inactivity, cycling without a helmet and illicit substance use. There was weak evidence of association between SES and hazardous drinking, self-harm, cannabis use and unprotected sex, but this was not consistent across the SES measures.

Conclusion: The association between multiple risk behaviours and SES suggests that prevention strategies should apply the principal of proportionate universalism with a focus on more deprived populations, within a population-wide strategy, to prevent widening of social inequalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology