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

Kerry M. Green, Katarzyna A. Zebrak, Judith A. Robertson, Kate E. Fothergill, Margaret E. Ensminger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume123
Issue number1-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

Keywords

  • African Americans
  • Co-occurrence
  • Comorbidity
  • Longitudinal research
  • Psychological distress
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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