• Article

Socio-demographic risk factors for alcohol and drug dependence


Swendsen, J., Conway, K. P., Degenhardt, L., Dierker, L., Glantz, M., Jin, R., ... Kessler, R. C. (2009). Socio-demographic risk factors for alcohol and drug dependence: The 10-year follow-up of the national comorbidity survey. Addiction, 104(8), 1346-1355. DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02622.x



Continued progress in etiological research and prevention science requires more precise information concerning the specific stages at which socio-demographic variables are implicated most strongly in transition from initial substance use to dependence. The present study examines prospective associations between socio-demographic variables and the subsequent onset of alcohol and drug dependence using data from the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) and the NCS Follow-up survey (NCS-2).


The NCS was a nationally representative survey of the prevalence and correlates of DSM-III-R mental and substance disorders in the United States carried out in 1990-2002. The NCS-2 re-interviewed a probability subsample of NCS respondents a decade after the baseline survey. Baseline NCS socio-demographic characteristics and substance use history were examined as predictors of the first onset of DSM-IV alcohol and drug dependence in the NCS-2.


A total of 5001 NCS respondents were re-interviewed in the NCS-2 (87.6% of baseline sample).


Aggregate analyses demonstrated significant associations between some baseline socio-demographic variables (young age, low education, non-white ethnicity, occupational status) but not others (sex, number of children, residential area) and the subsequent onset of DSM-IV alcohol or drug dependence. However, conditional models showed that these risk factors were limited to specific stages of baseline use. Moreover, many socio-demographic variables that were not significant in the aggregate analyses were significant predictors of dependence when examined by stage of use.


The findings underscore the potential for socio-demographic risk factors to have highly specific associations with different stages of the substance use trajectory.