This document offers a starting point for finding data on this group. Since there is little data available for this population exclusively, we have compiled a list of agencies and organizations operating at the state, regional, and national levels that routinely collect or maintain data on 18- to 25-year olds, overall. From there, we offer guidance for examining these sources through a “not in college” lens. However, when reviewing these sources, please note the following:
- Finding data specific to this population may take some detective work. Since most data sources do not include questions related to employment, you may need to look for data related to age and education status, and put the pieces together.
- Most of the sources included in the list provide information on the health or legal outcomes of substance use (e.g., number of deaths associated with substance use among 18- to 25-year-olds group). Fewer provide information about consumption patterns (e.g., rates of heavy drinking among non-college youth). We have noted those sources that do. We do include data on risk and protective factors.
The sources are organized according to three categories: health data, crime and accident data, and demographic data. Also included is a list of national sources that may contain relevant data. (Note: This list intentionally excludes college-specific data sources, as they do not capture information on non-college youth.) Several of these sources (indicated with an asterisk) may be used to populate outcomes for SAMHSA’s National Outcomes Measures (NOMs). Finally, please note that these sources contain existing reported data; they do not represent primary or new data collection efforts.
State and Local Resources
Health Data Sources
Many state and local agencies collect health data, including data on rates of substance abuse, the consequences of use (e.g., hospital data on overdoses), and, in some cases, attitudes toward alcohol and drug use. These data generally include information on both college and non-college youth. These agencies include the following:
- Local, County, and State Health Departments
Health departments, particularly those that oversee state offices of vital statistics, routinely collect and/or store a range of data, including information that describes drug and alcohol consumption patterns (e.g., 30-day use) and/or the health outcomes associated with substance use among young adults.* Many health departments also conduct periodic health needs assessments. In addition, local health departments are likely to be aware of the data collection efforts of other health-related agencies, such as hospitals, treatment centers, and prisons.
Hospital records, including hospital admission and discharge records, emergency medical services records, and trauma registries, can reveal patterns of alcohol- and drug-related illnesses and injuries. These records can provide information on particular drugs frequently used by community youth. Hospital records are also likely to reveal outcomes associated with substance use in the community, such as the number of 18- to 25-year-olds treated for drug overdose.
- Poison Control Centers
Regional, state, and local poison control centers regularly receive calls related to drug overdoses. These centers generally track the types of calls they receive in order to identify trends and emerging public health concerns. Though these records typically do not capture information related to the education status of callers, they should reveal trends in substance use among 18- to 25-year-olds, specifically related to prescription and nonprescription drug overdoses.
- Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
State and local emergency medical services provide pre-hospital emergency medicine, primarily in response to 9-1-1 calls. EMS data can reveal trends in substance use resulting in emergency medical care, with data broken down by gender, age, and symptoms. Once again, this data source most likely will not be able to reveal trends specific to non-college youth. However, these data could reveal important information about substance use in the 18- to 25-year-old age group in general.
- Community-Based Coalitions and Agencies
Local coalitions and/or chapters of national organizations that focus on young adults and/or substance use prevention may collect data specific to this age group, including data describing drug and alcohol consumption patterns (e.g., 30-day use) and/or attitudes toward alcohol use (e.g., perception of disapproval, perceived risk).* For example, 21 Reasons, a Maine substance use prevention coalition, recently collaborated with the city of Portland and a local community action agency to develop the Maine Brief Alcohol Check-up (MaineBAC), a free online assessment tool designed to collect information about alcohol use among 21- to 25-year-olds. Coalitions and agencies can also provide a unique point of access to non-college youth, as coalitions may include representatives from businesses and community agencies where non-college young adults work, shop, and socialize.
- Medical Examiner or Coroner’s Office
Most states require a medical examiner or coroner’s report for each person whose death resulted from violence or injury, and many counties provide this information, as well. These reports often contain information regarding drug or alcohol use at the time of death. However, these reports typically do not contain information about education status or consumption patterns, making it difficult to isolate data specific to non-college youth.
Crime and Accident Data Sources
Crime statistics can reveal both the number and types of substance-related crimes occurring in a community; accident reports can reveal the number of young adult drivers operating under the influence. These data can shed light on the negative consequences of substance use (e.g., violence, criminal activity, automobile accidents) for a specific age group. However, it can be difficult to determine whether or not offenders are in college or in the workforces, as these data often do not include education status.
- Local and State Law Enforcement Agencies
Information available from these agencies can include:
Since many local law enforcement agencies are required to provide arrests and convictions to their state, you can usually get this information directly from the state law enforcement agency.
- Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles (DMV/BMV)
State DMV/BMV’s maintain records on all drivers who received a citation for operating or driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Courts or Justice Department
In most states, the Administrative Office of the Courts publish annual court statistics which include convictions for various crimes. Such reports may contain information, separated out by district or county, on cases that involved drug- or alcohol-related crimes.
Employment Data Sources
Employers often collect information on their employees, and these records can be an important source of information on 18- to 25-year old non-college youth. Workplaces can also be an important venue for collecting new data on this population; for this reason, building strong relationships with these stakeholders and cultivating them as potential partners is key. It is important to note, however, that employers may resist sharing substance-related information about employees for fear that it will cast the employer in a negative light. Some common employers of non-college youth include the military, restaurants and bars, and construction companies.
Demographic Data Sources
Demographic data describe the composition of a community. You can use these data to determine whether a community has certain risk factors that tend to be associated with substance abuse—such as poverty, high crime rates, and fluctuations in population—and where these risk factors are most prevalent. Since demographic data generally include information about age of the population, these data may provide useful information regarding risk factors associated with substance use among 18- to 25-year-olds.
The U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/) provides demographic data disaggregated by city, county, and state. Town, county, and tribal administrative offices also regularly collect demographic data that include the age, gender, and ethnicity of community members. These data are often available on the town’s or county’s website.
National data sources can be used to see nationwide trends and patterns, and to provide a comparison to local data. Some national sources also provide data on states, regions, counties and some select communities.
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)*
This ongoing, state-based survey collects data from adults on the prevalence of chronic diseases and conditions, access to health care, and health-risk behaviors including heavy and binge drinking. It also collects information on age, highest level of education completed, and current employment status. This resource could be used to determine the statewide prevalence of binge drinking among young adults, and/or the prevalence of binge drinking by highest level of education achieved. BRFSS results are available at the national and state levels, and at select local levels (e.g., city results are available for larger municipalities and metro areas).
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)*
Operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this system collects information on deaths resulting from motor vehicle collisions, including data on several aspects of the crash, including the event, the vehicle(s) and driver(s) (by age), and each person involved. Specific substance-related indicators include the annual number of alcohol-related drivers in crashes in which at least one person died and the annual number of vehicle deaths sustained in crashes that were alcohol-involved.
Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)*
Operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, these report contain national crime estimates, including arrests, by age, for drug- and alcohol-related crimes; state crime estimates, and city and county crime counts (for cities with populations over 10,000 and counties with populations over 25,000). These Data are provided by law enforcement agencies that voluntarily participate in the UCR Program.
National Survey on Drug use and Health (NSDUH)*
Funded by SAMHSA, the NSDUH annually interviews people nationwide to provide national and state-level estimates of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use and mental health. The survey is designed to provide data on the levels and patterns of substance use, track usage trends, assess consequences, and identify groups at high risk for substance use. It collects information on age, education, employment status, as well as lifetime, annual, and past-month usage for alcohol, illegal substances, and nonmedical use of prescription drugs. This information could reveal national trends in substance use for college and non-college populations, and co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders in young adults. State data are also available.
Monitoring the Future
Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future (MTF) is a nationwide study of behaviors, attitudes, and values of American adolescents and young adults. MTF surveys participants at the beginning of high school, and into young adulthood. This resource includes national data regarding drug use among college versus non-college young adults for some, though not all, racial and ethnic groups.
* These datasets may be used to populate outcomes for SAMHSA’s National Outcomes Measures (NOMs).
Developed under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies contract (Reference #HHSS277200800004C).