Open Access Research

Social inequalities and correlates of psychotropic drug use among young adults: a population-based questionnaire study

Nearkasen Chau123*, Michèle Baumann4, Bruno Falissard1235, Marie Choquet123 and the Lorhandicap group1

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm, U669, Paris, F-75014, France

2 Univ Paris-Sud, U669, Paris, F-75014, France

3 Univ Paris Descartes, Paris, F-75014, France

4 University of Luxembourg, INtegrative research unit on Social and Individual DEvelopment (INSIDE), Walferdange, Luxembourg

5 AP-HP, Villejuif, F-94804, France

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2008, 7:3  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-7-3

Published: 19 January 2008



Use of psychotropic drugs is widespread in Europe, and is markedly more common in France than elsewhere. Young adults often fare less well than adolescents on health indicators (injury, homicide, and substance use). This population-based study assessed disparities in psychotropic drug use among people aged 18–29 from different socio-occupational groups and determined whether they were mediated by educational level, health status, income, health-related behaviours, family support, personality traits, or disability.


A total of 1,257 people aged 18–29, randomly selected in north-eastern France completed a post-mailed questionnaire covering sex, date of birth, height, weight, educational level, occupation, smoking habit, alcohol abuse, income, health-status, diseases, reported disabilities, self-reported personality traits, family support, and frequent psychotropic medication for tiredness, nervousness/anxiety or insomnia. The data were analyzed using the adjusted odds ratios (ORa) computed with logistic models.


Use of psychotropic drugs was common (33.2%). Compared with upper/intermediate professionals, markedly high odds ratios adjusted for sex were found for manual workers (2.57, 95% CI 1.02–6.44), employees (2.58, 1.11–5.98), farmers/craftsmen/tradesmen (4.97, 1.13–21.8), students (2.40, 1.06–5.40), and housewives (3.82, 1.39–10.5). Adjusting for all the confounders considered reduced the estimates to a pronounced degree for manual workers (adjusted OR 1.49, non-significant) but only slightly for the other socio-occupational groups. The odds ratio for unemployed people did not reach statistical significance. The significant confounders were: sex, not-good health status, musculoskeletal disorders and other diseases, being worried, nervous or sad, and lack of family support (adjusted odds ratios between 1.60 and 2.50).


There were marked disparities among young adults from different socio-occupational groups. Sex, health status, musculoskeletal diseases, family support, and personality traits were related to use of psychotropic drugs. These factors mediated the higher risk strongly among manual workers and slightly among the other groups.