This study examined how the perception of the availability of leisure opportunities may prevent substance use initiation through HealthWise, a school-based program focused on reducing risky behavior. In this study, we specifically focused on whether HealthWise increased student perceptions of leisure opportunities between 8th grade and 10th grade (N = 5610) in an under-resourced community in South Africa. Path analyses were used to test hypotheses. Given gender differences in substance use patterns, societal norms, and leisure opportunities in under-resourced communities, such as the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, it was especially important to examine associations within each gender. Results suggested that HealthWise directly reduced the likelihood of initiating alcohol and cigarette use and increased the amount of perceived leisure opportunities among girls but not boys. Perceived leisure opportunities mediated the effect of HealthWise on reducing the initiation of alcohol and cigarette use directly, and marijuana use indirectly, among girls but not boys. This is the first study to demonstrate how experimentally targeting leisure through an intervention can increase perceived leisure opportunities and thereby prevent early substance use initiation for a specific population. The importance of considering the context of gender, age, and location is discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health