The DfE have published some research into the characteristics and outcomes of those who take a gap year before going on to Higher Education takers in the UK.
One of the things that comes out of looking at the longitudinal datasets is that those who take a gap year are more likely to have used cannabis.
Gap year takers are, on average, more likely to… engage in risky behaviours such as smoking cannabis.
The paper says that 8% of gap year students had used cannabis before the age of 16 compared to 6% of those who went into HE straight away.
The researchers note:
Interestingly, gap year takers in the BCS [British Cohort Study] are actually more likely to have tried cannabis than individuals who have not acquired an HE qualification. It is also worth noting that the proportion of gap year takers who report that they have tried cannabis has increased dramatically over time, with just 8% of those in the BCS reporting having done so, compared to nearly 30% in the LSYPE [Longitudinal Study of Young People in England].
They also note that there appears that having a gap year makes no difference to the amount of alcohol being drunk.
Drug use after the age of 30
The report also looks at what impact having a gap year has on drug use later in life and says:
There are significant raw effects of taking a gap year on probability of cannabis consumption; taking a gap year increases the probability of smoking cannabis at age 30 by 5.6pp, and there is a marginally significant impact of 4.4pp when controlling for background and education.
They also note:
There are very similar effects at age 30 on the probability of taking [other] illegal drugs at 30. There are more significant results for the consumption of any illegal drug, with gap year takers 5pp more likely to consume illegal drugs at age 30 controlling for background and education.
In terms of prevention this suggests to me that those considering a gap year may benefit from targeted interventions and that parents, FE colleges and sixths forms, and those in Public Health may want to consider how they could support the health needs of this group of young people.
It may be that the Healthy FE and Skills Tools provide an excellent way for colleges to engage with better prevention practice.