Tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use in university students: A cluster analysis

Brian A. Primack, Kevin H. Kim, Ariel Shensa, Jaime E. Sidani, Tracey E. Barnett, Galen E. Switzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Objective: Segmentation of populations may facilitate development of targeted substance abuse prevention programs. The authors aimed to partition a national sample of university students according to profiles based on substance use. Participants: The authors used 2008-2009 data from the National College Health Assessment from the American College Health Association. The sample consisted of 111,245 individuals from 158 institutions. Methods: The sample was partitioned using cluster analysis according to current substance use behaviors. The association of cluster membership with individual and institutional characteristics was examined. Results: Cluster analysis yielded 6 distinct clusters. Three individual factors-gender, year in school, and fraternity/sorority membership-were the most strongly associated with cluster membership. Conclusions: In a large sample of university students, the authors were able to identify 6 distinct patterns of substance abuse. It may be valuable to target specific populations of college-aged substance users based on individual factors. However, comprehensive intervention will require a multifaceted approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-386
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of American College Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2012


  • alcohol
  • cluster analysis
  • marijuana
  • tobacco
  • university


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