Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Interrelationship of substance use and psychological distress over the life course among a cohort of urban African Americans

TitleInterrelationship of substance use and psychological distress over the life course among a cohort of urban African Americans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsGreen, KM, Zebrak, KA, Robertson, JA, Fothergill, KE, Ensminger, ME
JournalDrug Alcohol Depend
Date PublishedJun 1
ISBN Number1879-0046 (Electronic) 0376-8716 (Linking)
Accession Number22189347
KeywordsAdolescent, Adult, African Americans/*statistics & numerical data, Age Factors, Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology/psychology, Child, Cocaine-Related Disorders/epidemiology/psychology, Cohort Studies, Family, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Marijuana Smoking/epidemiology/psychology, Mental Health, Mothers, Risk, Sex Factors, Stress, Psychological/complications/epidemiology/*psychology, Substance-Related Disorders/complications/epidemiology/*psychology, United States/epidemiology, Young Adult

BACKGROUND: Substance use and psychological problems are major public health issues because of their high prevalence, co-occurrence, clustering in socio-economically disadvantaged groups, and serious consequences. However, their interrelationship over time is not well understood. METHODS: This study identifies and compares the developmental epidemiology from age 6 to 42 of substance use and psychological distress in a population of African American men and women. Data come from the Woodlawn study, a longitudinal study of an urban community cohort followed since 1966. We use structural equation modeling to examine pathways between substance use (i.e., alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine) and psychological distress over time by gender. RESULTS: We find significant continuity from adolescence to midlife for substance use and for psychological distress, as well as significant correlations within time periods between substance use and psychological distress, particularly among women. We also find greater adolescent substance use predicts psychological distress in young adulthood for men, but no cross-lag associations for women. Women's adolescent psychological distress and substance use are linked uniquely to that of their mothers. Findings show additional gender differences in the developmental etiology of substance use and psychological distress. CONCLUSIONS: Findings demonstrate the continuity of substance use and psychological distress over time; the contemporaneous relationships between psychological distress and substance use within time periods, and minimal cross-lagged relationships. Findings also show that adolescent substance use may set boys on a pathway of long-term psychological distress, thus adding to evidence of negative consequences of frequent use.