Nav: Home

College drinking intervention strategies need a refresh

March 14, 2019

Peer approval is the best indicator of the tendency for new college students to drink or smoke, even if the students don't want to admit it, according to new research from Michigan State University.

This new finding is key to help universities address the problems of underage or binge drinking, said Nancy Rhodes, professor and lead author of the study published in the journal Health Education and Behavior.

"We need to change our intervention approach to amplify the voices of those who don't approve of this kind of behavior, such as students who are disturbed at 3 a.m. by drunk dormmates arriving home," Rhodes said. "We suggest that emphasizing the social costs of these behaviors may be a promising strategy. Most importantly, the messages need to come from peers themselves, not authority figures."

Previous studies and social-norm approaches to curb these risky behaviors have focused on the perceived prevalence of students who drink or smoke, not whether the behavior is socially approved.

"More than their family's influence or how many students they think are participating in a risky behavior, students choose to drink or smoke based on if they believe their small circle of peers will approve," said Rhodes, who studies persuasion and social influence. "Students don't want to admit they're influenced by friends. They think they are making independent choices, but the reality is they are seeking acceptance."

Rhodes' research involved 413 first-year college students living in on-campus residence halls. First-year students were chosen because they are developing their independence and behavioral attitudes away from their families.

Students were tested on how quickly they responded to descriptions of drinking and smoking mixed in with other behaviors. They answered "yes" or "no" if they believed their family and friends wanted them to engage in those behaviors.

Students who quickly indicated their peers approved of them drinking signified higher drinking and smoking intentions. On the contrary, how quickly they indicated their parents approved of drinking and smoking had no effect on intention.

"This is referred to as cognitive accessibility, or the ease of activating something from memory," Rhodes said. "How quickly do they respond to the questions? How quickly do they say their friends want them to drink? How quickly do they say their friends want them to play drinking games? How fast they agree is what matters and predicts future behavior."
-end-
(Note for media: Please include a link to the original paper in online coverage: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1090198118818238)

Michigan State University

Related Smoking Articles:

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.
No safe level of smoking
People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than people who never smoked.
Nearly half of women who stop smoking during pregnancy go back to smoking soon after baby is born
A major new review published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that in studies testing the effectiveness of stop-smoking support for pregnant women, nearly half (43 percent) of the women who managed to stay off cigarettes during the pregnancy went back to smoking within six months of the birth.
If you want to quit smoking, do it now
Smokers who try to cut down the amount they smoke before stopping are less likely to quit than those who choose to quit all in one go, Oxford University researchers have found.
Cochrane news: Have national smoking bans worked in reducing harms in passive smoking?
The most robust evidence yet, published today in the Cochrane Library, suggests that national smoking legislation does reduce the harms of passive smoking, and particularly risks from heart disease.
More Smoking News and Smoking Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.