Substance use, social networks, and the geography of urban adolescents

Michael Mason, Ivan Cheung, Leslie Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


This article demonstrates a research strategy and prevention methodology for substance using urban youth that incorporates individual, social, and geographical parameters to systematically understand the ecology of risk and protection for urban youth. The primary goal of this study was to describe and analyze substance using and nonusing urban adolescents' social networks; risky and protective settings where they socialize; and the relationship to health outcomes such as substance use, depression, and stress. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) derived spatial relationships and analyses between the specific locations where the teens are active, their subjective ratings of these locations, and objective environmental risk data. These social network and GIS data were merged to form a detailed description and analysis of the social ecology of urban adolescent substance use. A case study was constructed to illustrate the methodology of creating a three-dimentional ecological profile that helps explain these relationships and provides preventive applications. Linear distances were computed between the homes of the users and the risky and safe places that they identified. On average, the distance between users' homes and their identified safe places was three times the distance between their homes and their identified risky places. This study provides support for understanding urban adolescent substance use through the detailed and multiple dimensional analysis of teens' social ecologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1751-1777
Number of pages27
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number10-12
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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