BACKGROUND: Substance use and abuse by young adolescents has become a serious issue for public health services, and several socio-environmental factors can influence how vulnerable a young adolescent may be to their appeal. The present study was devised to examine whether substance use in early adolescence is associated with problematic social networking site usage (PSNSU).
METHODS: In the academic year 2013-2014, secondary schools in Padua (north-eastern Italy) were involved in a survey called "Pinocchio". A sample of 1325 pupils attending years 6 to 8 (i.e. aged from 11 to 13 years) completed self-administered questionnaires, in which PSNSU was measured by applying the DSM-IV criteria of dependence to identify any social network addiction disorder and its fallout on daily life. Multivariate analysis (ordered logistic regression) was performed to assess an adjusted association between young adolescents' substance use and PSNSU.
RESULTS: The percentage of pupils classified as problematic social networking site users rose with age (from 14.6% in year 6 to 24.3% in year 7, and 37.2% in year 8), and it was higher in girls (27.1%) than in boys (23.6%). In a fully-adjusted model, PSNSU conferred a higher likelihood of being substance users (OR 2.93 95% CI 1.77-4.85).
CONCLUSION: This study identified an association between PSNSU and the likelihood of substance use (smoking, alcohol and energy drink consumption), providing further evidence of the need to pay more attention to PSNSU in early adolescence.