The researchers studied alcohol consumption practices among ninth-grade students in urban and rural schools in correlation with the students' academic performance, age, involvement in after-school activities and characteristics of the communities where they lived.
According to Ivaniushina and Khodorenko, rural students tend to drink more than their urban peers and face a higher risk of alcohol abuse. The authors presented their findings in the report Alcohol-related Behaviour of Adolescents in Russia's Small and Medium-sized Towns at the XVII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development hosted by the HSE on April 19 to 22, 2016.
Their analysis is based on data from a survey conducted by the Laboratory of Sociology in Education and Science in the autumn of 2012 in Tomsk and four small and medium-sized towns in the nearby area on a sample of 1,443 ninth-graders (14 to 16 years-olds) from 25 schools (including 1,272 respondents from Tomsk). The researchers asked the students about their alcohol consumption and processed the responses using logistic regression.
Ivaniushina and Khodorenko's paper identifies a number of factors which determine adolescents' drinking behaviours, including the influence of family and peers, the local context, such as the type of community and residents' socioeconomic status, and involvement in after-school activities. The study's authors found than rural youth tend to drink more often than their urban peers, and this is largely determined by their environment, such as "low educational level and economic status of most residents in small settlements." In such circumstances, school-age youth in villages and small towns often lack opportunities for using their spare time and energy, while the availability of alcohol and the influence of drinking peers make matters even worse.
International studies confirm the difference in alcohol consumption between adolescents in big cities and small communities. Back in 1970s and 1980s in the U.S., urban youth were more likely to use psychoactive substances than their rural peers, but this difference leveled off by the early 1990s. According to Ivaniushina and Khodorenko, recent U.S. studies reveal that 14 to 15 years-olds living in rural areas are significantly more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco and drugs than urban youth.
This phenomenon can be explained in sociocultural terms; for a long time, rural life was characterised by "isolation from the city, strong family ties and a family-centred culture." In addition to that, the agricultural cycles and crop growing and harvesting activities determined rural residents’ everyday behaviour. Both factors limited young people's access to alcohol and drugs.
With time, however, urban trends such as alcohol consumption started to affect rural communities, where a lack of leisure activities for young people created a particularly risky environment in terms of drinking behaviour.
Indeed, the living environment makes a difference; most small communities in Russia are characterised by the lower socioeconomic status of their residents and fewer educational and leisure options available for young people, who therefore have plenty of spare time on their hands and there is a danger that this time can be spent drinking alcohol. According to the researchers, "The general trend is that the higher the social and occupational status of local residents, the lower the risks of alcohol abuse for young people."
Activities such as hobby, arts or sports clubs and other educational options for youth can prevent risky behaviours. Ivaniushina and Khodorenko note that teenagers' involvement in meaningful after-school activities "may have positive health effects" and can help shape young people's everyday habits and behaviours, reducing the likelihood of risky practices in the future.
In addition to this, attending youth clubs helps build young people's self-esteem (see Extracurricular Activities Build Students' Self-esteem) – an important psychological factor influencing youngsters' attitudes and behaviors.
According to a number of studies, younger people tend to prefer low-alcohol drinks, such as beer and cocktails, and drink wine and strong spirits less frequently, but preferences tend to change with age towards stronger alcohol.
Ivaniushina and Khodorenko found that rural youth tend towards 'adult' preferences in drinks; when asked to rate how often they drank beer, wine, cocktails and strong liquor, urban teenagers responded that they preferred sparkling and dry wines, while rural youngsters reported drinking samogon more often.The researchers also found a negative correlation between students' academic performance and alcohol consumption in both urban and rural respondents, but this subject requires a separate study.