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Study Reports College Students Listen to Advice About Alcohol

Update Date: Mar 30, 2013 01:30 PM EDT

The age old method of talking and giving advice can still be very effective in preventing others from adopting unhealthy lifestyles. According to a new study done by researchers from Penn State University, talking about alcoholism might actually help prevent college students from drinking. The researchers conducted a survey and found that when parents discussed all aspects of alcoholism, ranging from why people choose not to drink to what overdrinking can do to the body, college students might actually listen and take the advice. However, the time when parents give the talk plays a huge factor.

The researchers, led by Rob Turrisi, administered surveys to 1,900 student and parent duos right before the students started college and once again when the students reached the fall of their freshmen and sophomore years. The researchers split the sample group into four random sections. The first group of parents was required to give advice to their children based on guidelines that promoted a nonjudgmental and casual conversation regarding alcohol usage from a book. The second group received the same guidelines but was given some more booster discussions further into the study. The third group of parents was told to start discussions after their children started school. The last group of parents was not given any instructions or guidelines as to how they should go about discussing alcohol.

The researchers recorded the students' alcohol behavior before the experiment started. They found that 51 percent were nondrinkers, 30 percent were heavy drinkers during the weekend, 15 percent drank moderately, and 5 percent were high-risk drinkers. After the survey, the researchers found a dip in the percentages of drinkers. They reported that 25 percent of the students were nondrinkers and 29 percent of them were heavy drinkers.

The researchers analyzed the numbers from each group and found that the style and time that the parents discussed alcohol with their children played a huge factor in how students' drinking patterns altered. They found that talking to children was the most effective before the children started school. Discussing alcohol during school or during school breaks did not seem to have an effect on the drinking patterns of the children.

"By parents doing the intervention [before college], their young children are less likely to transition to high risk or heavy drinking groups while at college. Young adult children who have already started high risk or heavy drinking are more likely to transition out of these groups while at college. In both cases, risk dramatically goes down," Turrisi said.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs

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