Associations Between Marijuana Use Trajectories and Educational and Occupational Success in Young Adulthood

Kara Thompson, Bonnie Leadbeater, Megan Ames, Gabriel J. Merrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Adolescence and young adulthood is a critical stage when the economic foundations for life-long health are established. To date, there is little consensus as to whether marijuana use is associated with poor educational and occupational success in adulthood. We investigated associations between trajectories of marijuana use from ages 15 to 28 and multiple indicators of economic well-being in young adulthood including achievement levels (i.e., educational attainment and occupational prestige), work characteristics (i.e., full vs part-time employment, hours worked, annual income), financial strain (i.e., debt, trouble paying for necessities, delaying medical attention), and perceived workplace stress. Data were from the Victoria Healthy Youth Survey, a 10-year prospective study of a randomly recruited community sample of 662 youth (48% male; M age = 15.5), followed biennially for six assessments. Models adjusted for baseline age, sex, SES, high school grades, heavy drinking, smoking, and internalizing and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms. Chronic users (our highest risk class) reported lower levels of educational attainment, lower occupational prestige, lower income, greater debt, and more difficulty paying for medical necessities in young adulthood compared to abstainers. Similarly, increasers also reported lower educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income. Decreasers, who had high early use but quit over time, showed resilience in economic well-being, performing similar to abstainers. Groups did not differ on employment status or perceived workplace stress. The findings indicate that early onset and persistent high or increasingly frequent use of marijuana in the transition from adolescent to young adulthood is associated with risks for achieving educational and occupational success, and subsequently health, in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-269
Number of pages13
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Educational attainment
  • Marijuana
  • Occupational outcomes
  • Trajectories
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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