Does sports participation during adolescence prevent later alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use?

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To study whether participation in organized sports during adolescence predicts increased smoking of tobacco, alcohol intoxication and cannabis use from late adolescence to adulthood when controlling for potential confounders. Moreover, to study whether such increased drug use varies according to type of sport (team versus individual), main skills needed (endurance, strength or technical) and level of competition.

Design, setting and participants

Survey of national sample of Norwegian high school students (aged 13–19 years) in 1992 (T1) followed-up in 1994 (T2), 1999 (T3) and 2006 (T4) (n = 3251).


Outcome measures included smoking of tobacco and 12-month prevalences of alcohol intoxication and cannabis use, respectively. Confounders included pubertal timing, friends' drug use, perceived social acceptance, grades and parental socio-economic status.


Latent growth curve analyses showed that initial level of participation in organized sports predicted growth in alcohol intoxication. Those involved initially in team sports had greater growth in alcohol intoxication, but lower growth in tobacco use and cannabis use, during the adolescent and early adult years compared to those involved in technical or strength sports. Practising endurance sports, as opposed to technical or strength sports, predicted reduced growth in alcohol intoxication and tobacco use.


Sports participation in adolescence, and participation in team sports in particular, may increase the growth in alcohol intoxication during late adolescent and early adult years, whereas participation in team sports and endurance sports may reduce later increase in tobacco and cannabis use.

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