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Students Studying Abroad More Likely To Drink

October 12, 2010

U.S. students who spend a semester or longer studying overseas are likely to increase their alcohol consumption when they are out of the country, claims a new study published in the latest issue of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington (UW), included a survey of 177 different students, most of who were abroad for three to five months. The subjects were asked to complete a survey of their alcohol consumption habits two weeks before they left and one month after they returned to the States.

The UW researchers found that, on average, students doubled how much they drank while in a foreign country–increasing their consumption rates from four alcoholic drinks per week in America to eight while abroad.

However, upon their return to their respective campuses, most students generally lowered their consumption rates to pre-departure levels. Those who drank the heaviest while overseas, however, were more likely to drink more heavily upon their return than prior to their departure, the university said in a press release dated October 11.

“We hear stories in the media and elsewhere about students going abroad, drinking too much and getting into trouble. But no one has ever measured this risky drinking behavior and there are no published studies of prevention strategies before they go abroad,” Eric Pedersen, a UW graduate student in psychology, said in a statement.

Peterson notes that the results do not provide evidence that students are or are not engaging in binge drinking or other risky consumption behaviors, and says that the change in behavior may result from “misperceptions” about drinking-related attitudes in different countries. Students who studied in European countries, Australia, or New Zealand were found to drink more than those who went to Asia, Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East.

Furthermore, according to the UW press release, the data “also support the idea that students younger than 21, the legal drinking age in the U.S., take advantage of more lax drinking laws abroad. The underage students in his study nearly tripled their drinking, whereas students over 21 doubled their intake of alcohol.”

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