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Adolescent self-organization and adult smoking and drinking over fifty years of follow-up: the British 1946 Birth Cohort

Adolescent self-organization predicts a range of economic and health-related outcomes in the general population. Using the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (the British 1946 birth cohort) we investigated whether this predicted smoking and drinking. The measure of adolescent self-organization was derived from teacher ratings of whether the study member was, at ages 13 and 15 years, a very hard worker, one with high power of concentration, extremely neat and tidy in class work, and seldom or never daydreamed in class. Summary measures of smoking and alcohol consumption over the ensuing five decades were then derived. We found that higher adolescent self-organization was associated with less smoking during these years, but there was no association with alcohol consumption across adulthood, including heavy consumption.  These analyses took account of other factors that could have explained this, including adolescent emotional and conduct problems, childhood intellectual ability, education and social class. Adolescent self-organization appears to be protective against smoking, but not against heavy alcohol consumption. It may be that self-organization leads to increased attention to public health messaging, which has been clear and consistent in relation to smoking although less so for alcohol.

Nishida A, Cadar D, MK Xu, Croudace T, Jones PB, Kuh D, Richards M
PLOS One 2016 Jan 11;11(1):e0146731