The risks of heavy student drinking

While many students grow out of their heavy drinking tendencies once they finish university, some undergraduates who imbibe significant amounts are likely to continue having alcohol-related problems in later life, a new study has shown. Published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the investigation suggested both genetic and personality factors are to blame for scholars continuing this behaviour.

According to the findings, there are two groups of students who drink large amounts, with one more inclined to consume large amounts to feel better, more impulsive and aggressive than the other.

Cheryl Baseler, a Researcher at Colorado State University - which has roots stretching back to 1870 - said: "If a parent knows his or her child possesses these traits, they should be aware of the risks these personality traits might pose if their child is drinking too much."

She added those who treat alcohol problems in young people should try and identify these characteristics in the individuals they look at.

Dr Mark McDermott, a Chartered Psychologist with the School of Psychology, University of East London, commented: "Whilst there may well be some dispositional elements to problem drinking, alcohol consumption amongst young people is of course a highly social activity and so is heavily influenced by such contextual factors, both whilst at college and thereafter in the world beyond academe. 

"The age old quest to disaggregate the effects of nature from nurture is as relevant here then, as it ever was. Health psychology research shows that self-efficacy beliefs for drinking reduction are important as determinants of moderate drinking i.e. single occasion drinking within the recommended daily limits (in the UK, 3 units for women & 4 units for men). 

"And of course self-efficacy is not an immutable trait, being responsive to social learning experience. So, though personal dispositions may potentiate chronic alcohol usage, local interpersonal conditions and experience may mitigate against this and enable the growth of protective factors, such as self-efficacy.

"Importantly, then, we should be careful not to interpret the findings of Baseler et al's study to inadvertently encourage people to be fatalistic about their drinking trajectories."