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Study: Do Facebook mentions reveal problem drinking?

October 12, 2011

By University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

MADISON, Wis. — College students who post on Facebook about getting drunk or blacking out are more likely to have alcohol problems compared to students who don’t make those references.

That’s according to results of a study now appearing online in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Dr. Megan Moreno, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, was the lead researcher. She is also a pediatrician at American Family Children’s Hospital.

The study included analysis of more than 300 Facebook profiles of undergraduate college students. The profiles were divided into three categories, as follows:

1. Those with no alcohol references

2. Alcohol references, but no mentions of intoxication or problem drinking

3. Expressions such as “getting drunk,” “getting wasted” and other terms used to describe over-consumption of alcohol.

The students were asked to participate in an online survey called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which is used to measure problem drinking.

According to Moreno, Facebook profilers who mentioned risky drinking behaviors were more likely to have AUDIT scores that indicated problems with alcohol.

Our study illustrates underage college students who referenced dangerous drinking habits, such as intoxication or blacking out, were more likely to score into the problem-drinking category of a clinical screen,” she said.

Moreno said parents and universities should take a proactive approach when they see Facebook profiles that may indicate alcohol abuse among adolescents.

Parents and college-health providers who note references to problem drinking on the Facebook profiles of adolescents should discuss drinking habits with their children and parents,” she said.

Researchers from the University of Washington also participated in the study. It was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

From the Oct. 12-18, 2011, issue

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