What the research shows about the connection between substance abuse, mental health, and life expectancy and their relation to family structure and religious practice.

Health Charts

  • Heavy and binge drinking among adults College-age young adults are most likely to abuse alcohol Two in five young adults between 18 and 25 binge drink, and one in seven reports heavy alcohol use. Men are about three times as likely as women to engage in heavy alcohol use and twice as likely to binge drink.
  • Adults with recent serious psychological distress Women are more likely than men to experience serious psychological distress About 3 percent of adults have experienced serious psychological distress in the preceding month. Women are one-third more likely to experience recent distress than men.
  • Low birthweight, by race One in 12 infants is born with a low birthweight Since 1981, the proportion of low-birthweight babies among all infants has increased by 20 percent. African American newborns are more likely to have low birthweight compared to other infants.
  • Percent of children with asthma Children in married-parent families are less likely to have asthma Children living in single-mother homes or homes in which neither parent is present are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with or still have asthma compared to peers living with fathers only or married parents.
  • Teens cigarette smoking, by grade Teen smoking has declined Fewer than one in two 12th graders has ever smoked a cigarette, compared to three in four 35 years ago, a drop of 46 percent. In the past two decades, the decline is the most dramatic among younger teens.
  • Teen alcohol use, by grade Overall teen alcohol use has decreased Though teen alcohol use has decreased in the past two decades—especially among younger teens—it remains high. Currently, about seven in 10 high school seniors have ever used alcohol, and one-half have ever been drunk.
  • Recent teen alcohol use, by grade Recent teen alcohol use has declined, most significantly among younger teens While teen alcohol use has declined, today two in five high school seniors say they have recently used alcohol, and one in four reports having been drunk in the previous month.
  • Teen illicit drug use, by grade One in two 12th graders has used an illicit drug Illicit drug use declined among 12th graders in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, drug use increased among younger and older teens, but it has generally declined in the past decade.
  • Teens who had a major depressive episode Among adolescents, older teens and girls are most likely to experience depression One in 10 adolescents age 16–17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. With a current rate of more than one in eight, teen girls are about three times more likely to experience depression than boys.
  • Life expectancy at birth, by gender and race The average life expectancy at birth has increased to nearly 79 years Since 1970, the overall life expectancy has increased eight years. The greatest increase is among African Americans, particularly men, with life expectancy now nearly 12 years longer. Women tend to live longer than men regardless of racial group.
  • Current health conditions, by marital status Married adults tend to report better health Nearly nine in 10 married adults report being in good or very good health, a greater share than non-married peers.
  • Percent of adults currently smoking Married adults are the least likely to smoke Since 1965, the proportion of adults who smoke has declined by half. About one in seven married adults currently smokes, the group least likely to be smokers.
  • Family meals and teen substance use Teens who frequently eat dinner with family are less likely to use drugs or alcohol Compared to teens who have two or fewer family dinners per week, those who have five or more are at least half as likely to have used tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. They are also less likely to say they would try these substances in the future or that they have friends who use them.
  • Adult alcohol use, by marital status Adult alcohol consumption differs by marital status Widowed individuals are the least likely and cohabitors are the most likely to be current, regular drinkers. Conversely, the former are the most likely and the latter the least likely to be lifetime abstainers from alcohol.