Quantitative and qualitative evidences for better gender-based prevention of adolescent addictive behaviours, with and without substance
Alcohol and other drug use in adolescents has been an enormous social and public health concern for decades, at a Spanish national level as well as at a European level. The latest National Survey on Drug Use in Secondary School students in Spain [ESTUDES 2016–2017] shows evidence pointing to gender differences in consumption trends: girls have the largest percentage of legal drugs use, while illegal drugs are used mainly by boys. Thus, the Spanish National Strategy on Addictions 2017-2024 emphasizes the need to adopt a transversal gender approach in every work developed in the addictions field, with and without substance.
This study aimed to track Spanish adolescent population trends and inform about the male-female differences in habits, rates of consumption, prevalence of use and risky use of substances, Internet, gaming and online gambling, and other related variables.
The present work provided a gender-based comparison of the results of three tracking surveys carried out by Spanish secondary students aged between 12 and 17 in the school years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. The total sample consisted of more than 10,000 adolescents, and data were collected through a self-administered paper-and pencil questionnaire that each adolescent completed individually at school. Moreover, this quantitative data was complemented by qualitative information extracted from four focus groups with adolescents carried out in 2018, with the intention of achieving a better understanding of the underlying motivations and identifying possible keys to improving prevention work.
In general terms, a gradual increase in prevalence of use in girls and boys has been revealed, as well as in frequency of use and risky use, especially in terms of alcohol use, tobacco use, internet and social networks use. Furthermore, the results obtained confirmed the existence of gender differences in substance use, moderating variables such as impulsivity and self-esteem, and motivations for using.
Such quantitative, and qualitative information supported by social psychology and psychology of groups, could be taken into consideration for developing new prevention programs and for future research deepening in adolescent use and addictions from a gender perspective.