Research project Youth, health and risk-taking
Youth, health and risk-taking: exploring how declining substance use and increasing mental health problems among young people are related to their everyday life concerns and practices
In the study, we investigate how young people experience and see risk taking and health in relation to the future, the labor market and education with a specific focus on the connection between consumption of different substances and feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.
Knowledge of young people´s approaches to risk-taking, future and health are crucial to understanding current trends in alcohol consumption and mental illness. Up to the end of 1990s, heavy drinking was the major rite of passage among adolescent boys and girls signaling entry to adulthood. Since then heavy drinking has lost its dominant position, alcohol consumption has decreased drastically and a higher proportion of young people choose to abstain completely. At the same time, increasing figures of stress and anxiety are reported among young people. This may be attributed to increased uncertainty and increased performance requirements in the labor market, in the education system, on social media and in training contexts. However, the connection between substance use and mental illness is unclear.
In the study, we investigate how young people experience and see risk taking and health in relation to the future, the labor market and education with a specific focus on the connection between consumption of different substances and feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. We have interviewed 56 young people aged 15 to 20 in a longitudinal qualitative study (2017–2019) and are now applying for additional funds to be able to follow these interviewees another two years into their adulthood.
The already collected material with established contacts and a possibility to follow the same young people constitute a unique opportunity to deepen the knowledge of young people´s approaches to the future and choices related to the labor market, risk-taking, health and substance use. Quantitative longitudinal data of young people born in 2001 (Futura) is used to analyze the association between health and substance use at an aggregate level.
Together, the qualitative and quantitative data provide excellent material to identify and specify the social mechanisms that crucially affect young people´s choices of life and health today.