Finding data that describe the substance use behaviors of young adults not attending college can be challenging. This document offers a starting point for finding data on this hard-to-reach population.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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).