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      Alcohol drinking among college students: college responsibility for personal troubles

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          One young adult in two has entered university education in Western countries. Many of these young students will be exposed, during this transitional period, to substantial changes in living arrangements, socialisation groups, and social activities. This kind of transition is often associated with risky behaviour such as excessive alcohol consumption. So far, however, there is little evidence about the social determinants of alcohol consumption among college students. We set out to explore how college environmental factors shape college students' drinking behaviour.


          In May 2010 a web questionnaire was sent to all bachelor and master students registered with an important Belgian university; 7,015 students participated (participation = 39%). The survey looked at drinking behaviour, social involvement, college environmental factors, drinking norms, and positive drinking consequences.


          On average each student had 1.7 drinks a day and 2.8 episodes of abusive drinking a month. We found that the more a student was exposed to college environmental factors, the greater the risk of heavy, frequent, and abusive drinking. Alcohol consumption increased for students living on campus, living in a dormitory with a higher number of room-mates, and having been in the University for a long spell. Most such environmental factors were explained by social involvement, such as participation to the student folklore, pre-partying, and normative expectations.


          Educational and college authorities need to acknowledge universities’ responsibility in relation to their students’ drinking behaviour and to commit themselves to support an environment of responsible drinking.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Health and behavioral consequences of binge drinking in college. A national survey of students at 140 campuses.

          To examine the extent of binge drinking by college students and the ensuing health and behavioral problems that binge drinkers create for themselves and others on their campus. Self-administered survey mailed to a national representative sample of US 4-year college students. One hundred forty US 4-year colleges in 1993. A total of 17,592 college students. Self-reports of drinking behavior, alcohol-related health problems, and other problems. Almost half (44%) of college students responding to the survey were binge drinkers, including almost one fifth (19%) of the students who were frequent binge drinkers. Frequent binge drinkers are more likely to experience serious health and other consequences of their drinking behavior than other students. Almost half (47%) of the frequent binge drinkers experienced five or more different drinking-related problems, including injuries and engaging in unplanned sex, since the beginning of the school year. Most binge drinkers do not consider themselves to be problem drinkers and have not sought treatment for an alcohol problem. Binge drinkers create problems for classmates who are not binge drinkers. Students who are not binge drinkers at schools with higher binge rates were more likely than students at schools with lower binge rates to experience problems such as being pushed, hit, or assaulted or experiencing an unwanted sexual advance. Binge drinking is widespread on college campuses. Programs aimed at reducing this problem should focus on frequent binge drinkers, refer them to treatment or educational programs, and emphasize the harm they cause for students who are not binge drinkers.
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            Social determinants of alcohol consumption: the effects of social interaction and model status on the self-administration of alcohol.

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              Descriptive and injunctive norms in college drinking: a meta-analytic integration.

              Many college students overestimate both the drinking behaviors (descriptive norms) and the approval of drinking (injunctive norms) of their peers. As a result, consistent self-other discrepancies (SODs) have been observed, in which self-perceptions of drinking behaviors and approval of drinking usually are lower than comparable judgments of others. These SODs form the foundation of the currently popular "social norms approach" to alcohol abuse prevention, which conveys to students the actual campus norms regarding drinking behaviors and approval of alcohol use. However, little attention has been paid to the factors that can influence the magnitude of SODs. This research was conducted to address these issues. This meta-analytic integration of 23 studies evaluated the influence of five predictors of SODs: norm type (injunctive or descriptive), gender, reference group, question specificity and campus size. These studies rendered 102 separate tests of SODs in descriptive and injunctive forms, representing the responses of 53,825 participants. All five predictors were significantly related to self-other differences in the perception of norms. Greater SODs were evident for injunctive norms, estimates by women, distal reference groups and nonspecific questions, as well as on smaller campuses. More systematic attention should be given to how norms are assessed. In particular, SODs can be maximized or minimized, depending on the specificity of the behaviors/attitudes evaluated and the reference groups chosen for comparison.

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                28 June 2013
                : 13
                : 615
                [1 ]Institute of Health and Society, Université catholique de Louvain, Clos Chapelle-Aux-Champs B1.30.15, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium
                [2 ]Institute for Health and Society, Clos- chapelle aux champs 30 - B1.30.15.05, 1200 Brussels, Belgium
                Copyright © 2013 Lorant et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Research Article

                Public health

                belgium, community health, public health, college students, alcohol drinking


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