Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Alcohol-Related Consequences among First-Year University Students: Effectiveness of a Web-Based Personalized Feedback Program

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Alcohol-Related Consequences among First-Year University Students: Effectiveness of a Web-Based Personalized Feedback Program

Article excerpt

This study evaluated the effectiveness of a web-based personalized feedback program using an objective measure of alcohol-related consequences. Participants were assigned to either the intervention group or an assessment-only control group during university orientation. Sanctions received for campus alcohol policy violations were tracked over the academic year. Results indicated high- risk drinkers in the control group received significantly more sanctions than other students. Results support the effectiveness of web-based interventions.

Keywords: first-year students, alcohol, web-based intervention

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Heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences represent a significant problem on college and university campuses across the United States. National survey data indicate that nearly 70% of U.S. college and university students report drinking (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2006) and 40%-45% report engaging in at least one heavy drinking episode in the past 2 weeks (Wechsler et al., 2002). Research indicates heavy drinking is associated with multiple social and interpersonal problems, such as arguing with friends, engaging in unplanned sexual activity, drinking and driving, getting into trouble with the law, and experiencing academic difficulties (Abbey, 2002; Cooper, 2002; Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, Kopstein, & Wechsler, 2002; Perkins, 2002; Vik, Carrello, Tate, & Field, 2000; Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000). Additionally, severe consequences such as unintended injuries, sexual and physical abuse, assault, and alcohol-related fatalities have been reported (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2008; Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005). These consequences not only affect the individuals involved but also have a costly impact on the community.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA; 2002) identified 1st-year students as a high-risk group for heavy drinking relative to the general student population. First-year students drink more, engage in heavy drinking episodes more frequently (Turrisi, Padella, & Wiersma, 2000), and are more likely to be arrested for alcohol-related incidents (Thompson, Leinfelt, & Smyth, 2006) in comparison with upperclassmen. This high-risk status afforded to 1st-year students has been attributed to the increase in freedom, decrease in social control, and increase in stress they experience in higher education compared with high school (Arnett, 2005). Research also indicates that leaving home and going to college are significantly related to increases in frequency of alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking (White et al., 2006). Additionally, research indicates that increases in drinking may be related to the weakening of parental monitoring and greater peer influence (Borsari & Carey, 2001). This transition is also a time during which students establish their college identity and social system (Borsari, Murphy, & Barnett, 2007). According to Borsari et al. (2007), coping mechanisms, alcohol expectancies, drinking motives, perceived norms, fraternity and sorority membership, and participation in drinking games all contribute to the increased risk of alcohol use among 1st-year students. Taken together, these studies suggest that implementing prevention and early intervention strategies, specifically in the 1st year of college, is crucial to the reduction of negative alcohol-related outcomes. By providing evidence-based programs targeting heavy drinking among 1st-year students, college and university campuses nationwide may experience an overall reduction in alcohol use and the associated negative consequences.

Past interventions implemented within university and college campuses have been based on components from the following three categories: education/awareness programs, cognitive/behavioral skills-based programs, and motivational/feedback-based approaches (Larimer & Cronce, 2007). …

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