To identify and assess the effectiveness of experimental studies of interventions that report on multiple risk behaviour outcomes in young people.
A systematic review was performed to identify experimental studies of interventions to reduce risk behaviour in adolescents or young adults and that reported on both any substance (alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug) use and sexual risk behaviour outcomes. Two authors reviewed studies independently identified through a comprehensive search strategy and assessed the quality of included studies. The report was prepared in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.
From 1129 papers, 18 experimental studies met our inclusion criteria, 13 of which were assigned a strong or moderate quality rating. The substantial heterogeneity between studies precluded the pooling of results to give summary estimates. Intervention effects were mixed, with most programmes having a significant effect on some outcomes, but not others. The most promising interventions addressed multiple domains (individual and peer, family, school and community) of risk and protective factors for risk behaviour. Programmes that addressed just one domain were generally less effective in preventing multiple risk behaviour.
There is some, albeit limited, evidence that programmes to reduce multiple risk behaviours in school children can be effective, the most promising programmes being those that address multiple domains of influence on risk behaviour. Intervening in the mid-childhood school years may have an impact on later risk behaviour, but further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this approach.