Urbanisation and adolescent risk behaviour

  • Alan J. Flisher
  • Derek O. Chalton


Objective. To investigate whether there is an association between the length of time lived in an urban area and selected adolescent risk behaviours.

Design. Cross-sectional survey in which students completed an anonymous, confidential questionnaire.

Setting. Four high schools in black communities in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.

Participants. A sample of 1 296 students obtained by multistage cluster sampling.

Main outcome measures. Selected risk behaviours.

Results. There is a relationship between urbanisation and certain risk behaviours. The following risk behaviours were associated with urbanisation: use in the previous month of alcohol, cannabis, and cannabis mixed with Mandrax; being a victim of violence; perpetration of an act of violence; and suicidality. Conversely, participation in sexual intercourse and solvent sniffing in the previous month were not associated with urbanisation.

Conclusion. Urbanisation is associated with an increase in the prevalence rates of some risk behaviours. Mental health promotion efforts may be informed by further research aimed at the identification of: (i) the characteristics of risk behaviour that determine whether it is associated with urbanisation; and (ii) where applicable, the specific aspects of the urbanisation process that contribute to an increase in risk.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135