Study: College Students Drink More While Studying Abroad

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College campuses are hotbeds of drinking activity, but new research suggests that students consume up to twice as much alcohol when they study abroad versus staying on campus.

The study surveyed 177 students from the University of Washington about their drinking habits before, during and after their terms in an educational exchange program. Students studied overseas for 3-to-5-month stints, and during that time reported consuming an average of eight drinks per week, double the amount they drank while at home. (More on 4 Reasons Binge Drinking Is a Public Health Problem).

Where kids studied impacted drinking behavior: students who went to Europe, New Zealand and Australia drank the most. Those who went to the Middle East or other places where drinking was not as widespread drank less. Another significant factor influencing drinking habits was legal age. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Students under 21 drank less than their older peers before traveling, but once abroad they increased their drinking more — by about 170%. They also drank more when they returned compared with before their trip abroad, and those numbers had no association with turning 21. It should be noted that in some countries the legal drinking age is under 21. Those who intended to drink more while abroad fulfilled those goals.

Although most students’ drinking habits returned to normal when they moved back home, the study found that the heaviest drinkers abroad continued to drink heavily back in the U.S. as well. (More on The Marijuana Number That Was Too Good to Check).

There are lots of reasons students might increase their drinking abroad. For one, dining in Europe often includes wine or beer — a glass with most meals could easily add up to eight drinks in a week. Additionally, being away from home in an exchange program may contribute to a “spring break” type of atmosphere encouraging more drinking than usual, Henry Wechsler, a lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the AP.

The study was published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

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