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Economic Status Early in Life May Influence Smoking, Drinking Patterns

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Young adults who grew up in poverty are more likely to smoke than their peers who grew up in more economically secure homes, but they are less likely to binge drink, a new study suggests.

Children who grew up in poor homes are no more likely than their wealthier peers to use marijuana later in life, the Duke University researchers found.

HealthCanal reports the study found worries about money early in life erode a child’s self-control, which can lead to substance abuse.

“Poverty during childhood not only appears to affect child development, but can have lasting effects on the types of health choices made during adolescence and early adulthood, especially as it relates to cigarette smoking,” senior author Bernard Fuemmeler, PhD, MPH, MS, said in a news release. “Economic strains may shape an individual’s capacity for self-control by diminishing opportunities for self-regulation, or affecting important brain structures.”

Fuemmeler and colleagues studied 1,285 children and their caregivers. They looked at families’ income, as well as a survey about economic problems such as difficulty paying bills. They also asked questions about the children’s self-control and parental interactions.

Young people who lived in poverty as children were much more likely to become regular cigarette smokers as adults, and to score low on self-control measures. Young adults who had grown up in wealthier homes were much more likely to binge drink than their peers who grew up in poverty.

Children whose parents who were nurturing and accepting were less likely to abuse any substances, the researchers report in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

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