Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Wellness Factors as Predictors of Alcohol Use among Undergraduates: Implications for Prevention and Intervention

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Wellness Factors as Predictors of Alcohol Use among Undergraduates: Implications for Prevention and Intervention

Article excerpt

A pilot study examining holistic wellness factors and drinking behaviors among undergraduate students revealed several significant relationships. Two second-order wellness factors of the Indivisible Self model of wellness--Coping Self and Essential Self--were negatively associated with both alcohol use intensity and drinking consequences. Implications for college counselors and for further research are considered.

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Alcohol consumption, and its associated consequences, remains an enormous problem on college campuses, garnering the attention of news media, law enforcement, and government agencies. Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee (2000), in a series of nationwide surveys of approximately 140 institutions across the United States, found that rates of heavy, episodic drinking of alcohol (also referred to as binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in one sitting for men, four for women), consistently were approximately 44% throughout the 1990s. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], Office of Applied Studies, 2007), the rates of binge drinking have changed little from those reported by Wechsler et al; for example, SAMHSA reported that 45.5% of college students engage in binge drinking and 19% engage in frequent binge drinking. Indeed, despite a bevy of prevention and intervention efforts, binge drinking continues to be a significant problem on campuses today.

Researchers have repeatedly documented the consequences of drinking alcohol. An estimated 1,700 college students between 18 and 24 years old die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including those resulting from car accidents (Hingston, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005). Furthermore, 599,000 college students are unintentionally injured when drinking, and 669,000 college students are assaulted each year by another student who had been drinking (Hingston et al., 2005). A staggering number of college students, because of heaving drinking, either commit sexual abuse or are sexually abused; experience unsafe sex, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, academic problems, mental health problems, or police involvement; or commit drunk driving, vandalism, or property damage (HHS, National Institutes of Health [NIH], National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], n.d.). Even more alarming is that college student excessive drinking affects all students, regardless of whether they choose to drink, and constitutes both a major public health problem and the number one campus life problem (HHS, NIH, NLAAA, 2002). Clearly, a better understanding of the factors that contribute to excessive drinking and those that mitigate and prevent alcohol use and abuse among college students is needed to inform policy, prevention, and intervention efforts.

To date, the preponderance of research conducted regarding alcohol use among college students has been descriptive in nature, including reports on frequency of use, quantity of use, and frequency of consequences (e.g., Jessor, Costa, Krueger, & Turbin, 2006), prompting calls for more multivariate studies and greater tests of theoretical models (Baer, 2002; Jessor et al., 2006). Indeed, researchers have discovered a wealth of information on the sociodemographic, behavioral, historical, and attitudinal predictors of college student drinking; however, a comparatively limited explanation of drinking through theoretically grounded, empirically based models exists, and even fewer studies of effective interventions have been undertaken. Most of these studies have been multidimensional in nature and conducted on the basis of social norms research. For example, according to the social ecological model, "health-related behaviors are affected through multiple levels of influence: intrapersonal (individual) factors, interpersonal (group) processes, institutional factors, community factors and public policy" (DeJong & Langford, 2002, p. …

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