K-State professors study risk attitudes and consequences of college drinking

May 04, 2006

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Professors at Kansas State University have found that males tend to be greater risk takers when it comes to alcohol, while women tend to use more protective strategies, including drinking only with friends, counting the number of drinks, limiting the amount of money spent on drinking and eating food before drinking.

Steve Benton, professor of counseling and educational psychology, Ronald Downey, professor of psychology, and Sheryl Benton, assistant professor of counseling and educational psychology and assistant director of Counseling Services, have done a study and paper on college student drinking, attitudes of risk and drinking consequences.

"My belief is that we have to face the fact that a certain percentage of college students will drink," Steve Benton said. "So, what can we do to reduce the likelihood of them getting into trouble?"

The researchers looked at how risk, along with other factors, play out in understanding the kinds of behavior people get into.

"Students who tend to have attitudes that make them greater risk takers are more likely to get into trouble when drinking," Steve Benton said. "Even when controlling the amount of alcohol, it's not how much you drink that affects the amount of trouble, but how risky you are."

He said that if a person doesn't care what others think and doesn't worry about laws, then they're more likely to get into trouble. Those with a lower-risk attitude will get into less trouble.

"We know that males tend to be heavier drinkers than females," Steve Benton said. "The more you drink, the more you get into trouble. We found that the protective strategies are especially beneficial to male students, because they drink more than females, as well as to students who have six or more drinks."

Student who drink more heavily also are more likely to experience harm from their drinking if they have high-risk attitudes. When they go to parties, they should be aware of their behavior and how much they're drinking, Steve Benton said. He recommends they pace their drinking over several hours.

According to Steve Benton, if students do the following, they are less likely to get in trouble: limit their number of drinks, use self-protective strategies, limit money spent on alcohol, drink with friends, pour their own drinks and have low-risk attitudes.

Even students who have more than six drinks are less likely to experience harm if they practice self-protective strategies, Steve Benton said.

Downey said the next stage of the study is to determine the right way to communicate about drinking issues.

"If you begin to talk to an individual about risky behavior, you have to understand where they're coming from," he said. "Some individuals talk about risks, but some don't like to."
-end-
The researchers' paper has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in August. The study was funded by a five-year, $450,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.

Kansas State University

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