• Open Access

Immigrant status and acculturation influence substance use among New Zealand youth


Correspondence to:
Taciano L. Milfont, School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand; e-mail: Taciano.Milfont@vuw.ac.nz


Objective: To investigate the associations between generational status, acculturation and substance use among immigrant and non-immigrant secondary school students in New Zealand.

Methods: A nationally representative sample of secondary school students in New Zealand was selected using a two-stage cluster sample design. Of the 8,999 students in the sample, 23.81% were first-generation immigrants and 20.90% were second-generation immigrants; the remaining 55.29% students are collectively referred to as ‘non-immigrant’ peers. Logistic regression models adjusted the associations of interest for age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and experience of ethnic discrimination.

Results: First and second-generation immigrants showed significantly lower risks of smoking cigarettes compared with their non-immigrant peers. Similar trends were apparent for consuming alcohol and marijuana weekly. The inclusion of some characteristics suggestive of acculturation in multivariable models did not influence the relationship between generational status and smoking cigarettes, but attenuated the apparent protective effect of being a first-generation immigrant with regard to alcohol and marijuana use.

Conclusions and implications: The study shows the lower likelihood of substance use among newer immigrants in a nationally representative sample of New Zealand youth. Policies and health programs that build on this positive profile and reduce the risk of adverse changes over time require attention.