Background: Recently, social movements across the world have demanded reforms to education systems and other institutions. Although such movements have affected large numbers of people across multiple countries, we know little about the impacts they have had on population health. We focus on one example: the massive strikes and collective occupation of secondary schools across Chile, which occurred contemporaneously with a large increase in marijuana use among students in this age group. We aimed to evaluate the causal effects that the 2011 Chilean school strikes had on adolescent substance use, including the initiation of marijuana use and the use of alcohol and marijuana.
Methods: School-level, aggregated panel design using data from the National Drug Surveys among Secondary Students from 2005 to 2015 for students in grades 9-12. We used a fixed-effects difference-in-difference model to estimate the effect of school occupations on prevalence of self-reported indicators of drug use.
Results: Reported marijuana use doubled between 2009 and 2013 among Chilean adolescents. After controlling for secular trends in outcomes and for school characteristics, there was no evidence of increased marijuana initiation, alcohol and marijuana use, or of an increase in heavy use among adolescents being directly attributable to school strikes and occupations in 2011.
Conclusions: The 2011 Occupy school movement in Chile had no detectable causal effect on substance use among Chilean adolescents. The increase in marijuana use from 2009 to 2013 seems to be part of broader social changes occurring among the school-age population.
Keywords: Adolescents; Alcohol; Cannabis; School; Social movements.
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