Social media can help identify students at alcohol risk

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New York, May 28 (IANS) Students who are at the risk of having drinking problems can be identified on social networking sites which are increasingly playing an important role in helping them coordinate, advertise and facilitate their drinking experiences, researchers report.

“The strongest predictor of both drinking alcohol and posting about it on social media was espousing an alcohol identity — meaning that the individuals considered drinking a part of who they are,” said co-lead author Charee Thompson from Ohio University.

Those two behaviours were associated with alcohol problems – such as missing school or work, or getting into fights – because of drinking.

To find out what drives students to drink and post about alcohol on social media, a joint team from North Carolina State University and Ohio, conducted an online survey of 364 undergraduate students.

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The students were all over 18, reported having consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the past month, and had an active Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account.

The researchers found that having a drink was less strongly correlated with alcohol problems than posting about alcohol use was — though clearly students with alcohol problems were drinking alcohol, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.

“This might be because posting about alcohol use strengthens a student’s ties to a drinking culture, which encourages more drinking, which could lead to problems,” Thompson said.

The researchers are hopeful that the findings can aid policymakers in developing interventions to target the most at risk populations – particularly students with strong alcohol identities.

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