Affluent Teens More Prone to Substance Abuse

Posted on June 20th, 2011

A recent study published in the American Psychological Association’s magazine, Monitor on Psychology, claims that adolescents raised in wealthy homes are at higher risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. They have also been shown to be more prone to developing substance abuse problems such as drug and alcohol addiction. Results of the study indicate that financial affluence does not shelter one from possible mental and emotional problems.

There are several factors that may contribute to this phenomenon. Affluent kids are being raised in a society that is full of vanity. Their parents may be overbearing and have unrealistic expectations, which could contribute to rebellion. And, there is a common air of perfectionism that surrounds many of these families.

A British survey orchestrated by Ofsted called Tellus3 polled kids across England ranging in age from 10 to 15. The survey found that middle-class kids living in the suburbs and rural areas were more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than their less affluent peers living in the inner cities. Explanations for the differences in behavior come down to family and cultural values and money. Experts speculate that kids in the inner-city, many of whom are from different ethnic backgrounds, have been reared in a stricter manner. Those with strong faith backgrounds for instance, may place more emphasis on abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Many Western middle-class families, in contrast, believe they are teaching their kids to drink responsibly by allowing their children to drink at home in front of them.

Dr David Regis of the Schools Health Education Unit says that his own research also suggests that children raised in rural areas and the suburbs are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. He believes that money is a strong dictating factor. He points out that poorer families do not have access to basics, let alone extra cash for alcohol or drugs. Another theory is that parents living in rural areas are more comfortable permitting their children to go out unsupervised.

Regardless of the reason, teenage drinking in general is a big cause for concern. A trend these days is for teens to mix energy drinks with alcohol. The problem with this mixture is that teens don’t realize how drunk they are getting, so they keep drinking more. The caffeine helps keep them energized when the body’s normal reaction to overdrinking is to become sleepy and eventually pass out.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDD) also reports this alarming statistic – 90 percent of teen alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as ingesting four or more regular size beers for a female and five or more for male over a two-hour period of time. Binge drinking creates the risk of alcohol poisoning because so much alcohol is consumed over such a short period of time. Teens who binge drink are more likely to end up in the hospital than teens who drink more often but less during each episode of drinking.

Researchers do offer parents some tips to help keep kids out of trouble. First, make sure your children have household responsibilities and chores. Volunteer with your kids and do community service; this makes them feel a part of something greater, takes the focus off self, and helps unify the family. Limit time spent watching TV as many shows, especially reality shows, spotlight celebrity excess. Also, screen Internet usage; know what your kids are viewing. Finally, don’t expect your kids to be perfect. Focus on the importance of learning rather than demanding straight As. Don’t expect your child to be the class valedictorian, a top-seeded tennis player, and a world-class concert pianist. Unreasonable expectations can lead teens to escape stress through alcohol and drug use.

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