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Study: Students would curb binge drinking for better grades, health

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Women are 38 percent more willing to attempt responsible drinking and 49 percent more willing to sustain it, than men are, according to a study of college students. Photo by

By Allen Cone, UPI

How do you get college students to stop binge drinking?

It would be necessary to convince them it will quickly improve their health, relationships and grades, according to a new study.

[post_ads]Researchers asked 289 college students 18 years and older to self-report binge drinking within the previous 30 days in September 2017, and then two and three weeks later. They were asked about their willingness to initiate and sustain responsible drinking habits as well as which factors they believed would be most helpful.

The findings were published last week in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

"Prior studies have shown that convincing people to change their behavior requires a comprehensive approach," lead researcher Dr. Manoj Sharma, a professor of behavioral health at Jackson State University, said in a press release by the American Osteopathic Association. "As difficult as it is for people to adopt new behaviors, it is even harder for them to sustain those changes."

Binge drinking was defined as a pattern of drinking that raises a person's blood alcohol level to 0.08 percent or above per 100 g of blood. Binge drinking occurs when within a 2-hour time frame, women consume at least four drinks or men consume at least five drinks.

The prevalence of binge drinking among college students aged 18 to 24 years is about 40 percent, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. And 60 percent reported drinking in the past month.

Respondents in the binge drinking survey were asked 39 questions, including on demographics.

On average, participants said they consumed an average of 34.3 drinks in the past 30 days. And on average, they first consumed alcohol at 15.6 years of age.

Students overall believe drinking responsibly or abstaining would first require them to be convinced of the immediate advantages to health, relationships and grades. Also, participants noted that confidence in their ability to change and a different physical environment, such as moving out of a fraternity house, would be necessary.

They also said that keeping a diary or utilizing an app that helped track drinking habits would be effective. Other changes, such as exercise or other positive behaviors, would help them avoid heavy drinking because of emotional triggers. And relying on friends and family for emotional support would help them maintain responsible drinking habits.

"Having identified these core supports, we can now design precision interventions that can be implemented by physicians, colleges, even parents," Sharma said. "Anyone can apply these principles to create a lasting positive change."

Compared with men, women were 38 percent more willing to attempt responsible drinking and 49 percent more willing to sustain it. The study include 48.1 percent men and 51.9 percent women.

By race, non-white college students were 41 percent more willing to try better drinking behaviors than whites and 96 percent more willing to sustain it. The study was 87.6 white, 4.3 percent black and the reminder other races and ethnicities.
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Men's eagerness to sustain a behavioral change was 32 percent lower than initiating responsible drinking. Women had a slightly smaller reduction of 27 percent.

White people had a 33 percent reduction in willingness than sustaining responsible drinking. Non-whites had only a 7 percent reduction in willingness than sustaining those habits.

"Drinking is less of an accepted cultural norm among women and non-whites, and so those groups are more inclined to change their behaviors," Sharma said. "Convincing white men to adopt more responsible and moderate levels of drinking appears to be the bigger challenge at this point."

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