Binge drinking is a major problem on U.S. college campuses. An estimated 40 percent of students engage it in regularly, despite the numerous negative consequences. So how do you get college students to stop drinking?
Convince them that giving up the booze will help their grades, relationships and improve their health, one study showed.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of American Osteopathic Association.
Researchers surveyed nearly 300 college students over the age of 18 and asked them to report any binge drinking they had participated in during the past 30 days (September 2017), and then followed up with the same inquiry three weeks later. The students were asked about their willingness to initiate and participate in healthier drinking habits, as well as what factors they deemed necessary for a successful change.
Lead researcher Dr. Manoj Sharma, professor of behavioral health at Jackson State University, said in a press release by the American Osteopathic Association, “Prior studies have shown the convincing people to change their behavior requires a comprehensive approach. As difficult as it is for people to adopt new behaviors, it is even harder for them to sustain those changes.”
The study reveals that women and non-whites college students were most open to making changes to their drinking habits. Compared to men, women were 38 percent more willing to initiate or try drinking responsibly and 49 percent more willing to sustain those habits. Non-whites were 41 percent more willing to initiate new behaviors and 96 percent more willing to sustain them.
“Drinking is less of an accepted cultural norm among women and non-whites, and so those groups are more inclined to change their behaviors,” says Dr. Sharma. “Convincing white men to adopt more responsible and moderate levels of drinking appears to be the bigger challenge at this point.”
What it would take
Students surveyed that healthier changes to their drinking habits would require them of being convinced of immediate positive changes to their health, relationships and grades. Participants also reported that confidence in themselves or a higher being, as well as a change in physical environment — like moving out of the fraternity house — would be necessary for them to successfully make the change.
Adopting new habits like exercise or other positive behaviors would help them quit. Finally, recruiting friends and family to help with emotional support would allow them to make the move away from binge drinking and onto more responsible drinking habits or abstinence.
“Having identified these core supports, we can now design precision interventions that can be implemented by physicians, colleges, even parents,” said Dr. Sharma. “Anyone can apple these principles to create a lasting positive change.”
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