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Risky driving, mental health, and health-compromising behaviours: risk clustering in late adolescents and adults
  1. Catherine C McDonald1,
  2. Marilyn S Sommers2,
  3. Jamison D Fargo3
  1. 1School of Nursing, Center for Global Women's Health & Center for Health Equity Research, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2School of Nursing, Center for Global Women's Health, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Catherine C McDonald, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Center for Global Women's Health & Center for Health Equity Research, Claire Fagin Hall, 418 Curie Boulevard, 4012a, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA; mcdonalc{at}


Background Health-compromising behaviours in adolescents and adults co-occur. Because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability for these age groups, understanding the association between risky driving and other health-compromising behaviours is critical.

Methods We performed a secondary analysis of data from a randomised controlled trial of an intervention for participants who screened positive for risky driving and problem drinking. Using baseline data, we examined relationships among conduct behaviour problems before and after age 15 years, depressive symptoms, sleep, problem drinking, and risky driving (hostile, reckless and drinking and driving) in late adolescents ages 18–24 (n=110) years, and adults ages 25–44 (n=202) years. We developed a measurement model for the entire sample using confirmatory factor analysis, which was then specified as a multigroup structural equation model.

Results Late adolescents and adults had some similar associations for pathways through problem drinking to drinking and driving; depression to reckless driving; and conduct behaviour problems after 15 years of age to hostile driving. Late adolescents, however, had more complex relationships: depressive symptoms and conduct behaviour problems before 15 years of age were associated with more risky driving behaviours through multiple pathways, and males reported more risky driving.

Conclusions Risky driving is associated with other health-compromising behaviours and mental health factors. It is a multidimensional phenomenon more pronounced in late adolescence than adulthood. In order to promote safe driving, the findings support the need to consider behaviours that are a health threat in the late adolescent population during driving training and licensure.

Trial registration number: NCT00164294.

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