A common commercial marketing segmentation technique is to divide a population into groups based on psychographic characteristics (i.e., attitudes and interests). We used this approach to define segments of female and male college students and examine substance use differences.
We administered an online survey to 24,055 students at six colleges in the Southeastern United States (response rate 20.1%, n = 4,840), obtaining complete data from 3,469 participants. We assessed sociodemographics, psychographic factors such as those used by the tobacco industry to define market segments, and substance use (cigarettes, other tobacco products, alcohol, and marijuana). Cluster analysis was conducted among females and males using 15 psychographic measures (sensation seeking, Big Five personality traits, and nine measures adapted from tobacco industry documents), identifying three segments per sex.
Safe responsibles were characterized by high levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, academic achievement, and religious service attendance. Stoic individualists were characterized by low extraversion, sensation seeking, and openness. Thrill-seeking socializers were characterized by high levels of sensation seeking and extraversion. Among females, thrill-seeking socializers were significantly more likely than safe responsibles to have used any substance in the prior 30 days (odds ratio [OR] = 2.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.65, 2.52]; Nagelkerke R2 = .084). Among males, stoic individualists (OR = 1.50, CI [1.08, 2.08]) and thrill-seeking socializers (OR = 1.53, CI [1.09, 2.13]) were more likely than safe responsibles to have used substances in the past 30 days (Nagelkerke R2: .109).
Psychographic segmentation can identify young adult subgroups with differing psychographic and substance use profiles and inform health campaigns and messaging targeting youth.