Social Network Characteristics and Daily Smoking among Young Adults in Sweden
Ylva B Almquist
Summary, in English
A large number of studies have shown that friends’ smoking behavior is strongly associated with an individual’s own risk for smoking. However, few studies have examined whether other features of social networks, independently or conjointly with friends’ smoking behavior, may influence the risk for smoking. Because it is characterized by the growing importance of friendship networks, the transition from adolescence to young adulthood may constitute a particularly relevant period on which to focus our investigation of network influences on smoking behavior. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the consequences of peer smoking as well as other network characteristics (friends’ other health behaviors, relationship content, and structural aspects of the network) on the risk for smoking among young adults. The data was based on a cross-sectional survey of Swedish 19-year-olds carried out in 2009 (n = 5,695) with a response rate of 51.6%. Logistic regression was the primary method of analysis. The results show that having a large percentage of smokers in one’s network was by far the most important risk factor for daily smoking. The risk of daily smoking was 21.20 (CI 14.24. 31.54) if 76%–100% of the network members smoked. Having a high percentage of physically active friends was inversely associated with daily smoking. The risk of smoking was 0.65 (CI 0.42. 1.00) if 76%–100% of the network members were physically active. No main associations between the other network characteristics (relationship content and structural aspects of the network) and smoking were found. However, there was an interaction between the percentage of smokers in the network and relationship content (i.e., trust, relationship quality and propensity to discuss problems): positive relationship content in combination with peer smoking may increase the risk of smoking. Women with a high percentage of smokers in their networks were also at higher risk of daily smoking than were men with many smoking friends. Hence, it is important to consider the interplay between peer smoking and other network characteristics on the risk of smoking, where features of networks which traditionally are seen as constructive may occasionally provide the impetus to smoke. Future studies should use longitudinal data to study whether these findings reflect peer selection or peer influence.