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      Smoking in school-aged adolescents: design of a social network survey in six European countries

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          In Western countries, smoking accounts for a large share of socio-economic inequalities in health. As smoking initiation occurs around the age of 13, it is likely that school context and social networks at school play a role in the origin of such inequalities. So far, there has been little generic explanation of how social ties at school contribute to socio-economic inequalities in smoking. The SILNE ( Smoking Inequalities – Learning from Natural Experiments) survey was designed to test the hypothesis that a combination of peer effect, homophilous social ties, and school context may explain how smoking inequalities are magnified at school – a theory known as network-induced inequality. In this paper, the survey theory and design are presented.


          The social network survey was carried out in 2013 in six medium-sized European cities with average incomes similar to the national average: Namur (Belgium), Tampere (Finland), Hannover (Germany), Latina (Italy), Amersfoort (The Netherlands), and Coimbra (Portugal). In each city, 6 to 8 schools were selected in a stratified sampling procedure. In each school, two grades in secondary education, corresponding to 14-16-year-olds, were selected. All adolescents in these two grades were invited to participate in the survey. Social ties were reported using the roster approach, in which each adolescent had to nominate up to 5 friends from a directory.

          The survey collected information from 11,015 adolescents in 50 schools, out of a total of 13,870 registered adolescents, yielding a participation rate of 79%. The SILNE survey yielded 57,094 social ties, 86.7% of which referred to friends who also participated in the survey.


          The SILNE survey was designed to measure the association between adolescents’ social ties at school, their socio-economic background, and their smoking behaviour. Two difficulties were encountered, however: legal privacy constraints made it impossible to apply the same parental consent procedure in all countries, leading to somewhat lower participation rates in two cities: Hannover and Latina. It was also difficult to match the 6 cities in terms of both age and type of education.

          The SILNE survey provided a comparable database for the study of smoking inequalities across European cities from a social network perspective.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13104-015-1041-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 59

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          A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

          Quantification of the disease burden caused by different risks informs prevention by providing an account of health loss different to that provided by a disease-by-disease analysis. No complete revision of global disease burden caused by risk factors has been done since a comparative risk assessment in 2000, and no previous analysis has assessed changes in burden attributable to risk factors over time. We estimated deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; sum of years lived with disability [YLD] and years of life lost [YLL]) attributable to the independent effects of 67 risk factors and clusters of risk factors for 21 regions in 1990 and 2010. We estimated exposure distributions for each year, region, sex, and age group, and relative risks per unit of exposure by systematically reviewing and synthesising published and unpublished data. We used these estimates, together with estimates of cause-specific deaths and DALYs from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, to calculate the burden attributable to each risk factor exposure compared with the theoretical-minimum-risk exposure. We incorporated uncertainty in disease burden, relative risks, and exposures into our estimates of attributable burden. In 2010, the three leading risk factors for global disease burden were high blood pressure (7·0% [95% uncertainty interval 6·2-7·7] of global DALYs), tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke (6·3% [5·5-7·0]), and alcohol use (5·5% [5·0-5·9]). In 1990, the leading risks were childhood underweight (7·9% [6·8-9·4]), household air pollution from solid fuels (HAP; 7·0% [5·6-8·3]), and tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke (6·1% [5·4-6·8]). Dietary risk factors and physical inactivity collectively accounted for 10·0% (95% UI 9·2-10·8) of global DALYs in 2010, with the most prominent dietary risks being diets low in fruits and those high in sodium. Several risks that primarily affect childhood communicable diseases, including unimproved water and sanitation and childhood micronutrient deficiencies, fell in rank between 1990 and 2010, with unimproved water and sanitation accounting for 0·9% (0·4-1·6) of global DALYs in 2010. However, in most of sub-Saharan Africa childhood underweight, HAP, and non-exclusive and discontinued breastfeeding were the leading risks in 2010, while HAP was the leading risk in south Asia. The leading risk factor in Eastern Europe, most of Latin America, and southern sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 was alcohol use; in most of Asia, North Africa and Middle East, and central Europe it was high blood pressure. Despite declines, tobacco smoking including second-hand smoke remained the leading risk in high-income north America and western Europe. High body-mass index has increased globally and it is the leading risk in Australasia and southern Latin America, and also ranks high in other high-income regions, North Africa and Middle East, and Oceania. Worldwide, the contribution of different risk factors to disease burden has changed substantially, with a shift away from risks for communicable diseases in children towards those for non-communicable diseases in adults. These changes are related to the ageing population, decreased mortality among children younger than 5 years, changes in cause-of-death composition, and changes in risk factor exposures. New evidence has led to changes in the magnitude of key risks including unimproved water and sanitation, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, and ambient particulate matter pollution. The extent to which the epidemiological shift has occurred and what the leading risks currently are varies greatly across regions. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, the leading risks are still those associated with poverty and those that affect children. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks

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              Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health.

              The main threats to adolescents' health are the risk behaviors they choose. How their social context shapes their behaviors is poorly understood. To identify risk and protective factors at the family, school, and individual levels as they relate to 4 domains of adolescent health and morbidity: emotional health, violence, substance use, and sexuality. Cross-sectional analysis of interview data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. A total of 12118 adolescents in grades 7 through 12 drawn from an initial national school survey of 90118 adolescents from 80 high schools plus their feeder middle schools. The interview was completed in the subject's home. Eight areas were assessed: emotional distress; suicidal thoughts and behaviors; violence; use of 3 substances (cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana); and 2 types of sexual behaviors (age of sexual debut and pregnancy history). Independent variables included measures of family context, school context, and individual characteristics. Parent-family connectedness and perceived school connectedness were protective against every health risk behavior measure except history of pregnancy. Conversely, ease of access to guns at home was associated with suicidality (grades 9-12: P<.001) and violence (grades 7-8: P<.001; grades 9-12: P<.001). Access to substances in the home was associated with use of cigarettes (P<.001), alcohol (P<.001), and marijuana (P<.001) among all students. Working 20 or more hours a week was associated with emotional distress of high school students (P<.01), cigarette use (P<.001), alcohol use (P<.001), and marijuana use (P<.001). Appearing "older than most" in class was associated with emotional distress and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among high school students (P<.001); it was also associated with substance use and an earlier age of sexual debut among both junior and senior high students. Repeating a grade in school was associated with emotional distress among students in junior high (P<.001) and high school (P<.01) and with tobacco use among junior high students (P<.001). On the other hand, parental expectations regarding school achievement were associated with lower levels of health risk behaviors; parental disapproval of early sexual debut was associated with a later age of onset of intercourse (P<.001). Family and school contexts as well as individual characteristics are associated with health and risky behaviors in adolescents. The results should assist health and social service providers, educators, and others in taking the first steps to diminish risk factors and enhance protective factors for our young people.

                Author and article information

                BMC Res Notes
                BMC Res Notes
                BMC Research Notes
                BioMed Central (London )
                21 March 2015
                21 March 2015
                : 8
                [ ]Institute of Health and Society, Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Clos chapelle aux champs 30.05, 1200 Brussels, Belgium
                [ ]Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
                [ ]Department of Human Sciences, Society and Health, University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Cassino, Italy
                [ ]School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland
                [ ]Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
                [ ]Institute of Medical Sociology, Martin-Luther University of Halle, Halle, Germany
                [ ]Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland
                © Lorant et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                international comparison, smoking, inequalities, social network, schools


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