Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Association of Psychological Factors to Alcohol Consumption Behavior among U.S. College Students

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Association of Psychological Factors to Alcohol Consumption Behavior among U.S. College Students

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Universities are known for a social as well as an academic environment. Many students identify with movies which show college students using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other substances and argue that they exemplify the social scene of university life and university students. To what point is a university known for its social rather than its academic status? All universities have a social scene, which is comprised of parties, smoking, alcohol consumption, and other substance usage. Is this social aspect automatically associated with university students? At this time the answer to this question is, "Yes". However, whether this social aspect is solely attributed to the university environment or to other factors including varied psychological factors, a student's family history or peer pressure, remains open to further examination.

Substance abuse among university students within the United States has been recognized as a major public health problem (Dhanookdhary et al., 2010; Ham & Hope, 2003) and associated with adverse consequences of suicide, negative educational outcomes, criminal behaviors, psychological difficulties, and severe drug abuse (Windle, 2003). An understanding of the psychological factors and other issues that place university students at greater risk for substance usage and abuse (SUA) is critical for the development of effective intervention and preventative measures. Smoking behavior is the starting point of all these kinds of high risk behavior.

The use of tobacco among university students has been of concern due to the underlying issues that may arise from adverse use. Recent studies have shown that there are high rates of smoking in university students in the United States of America. Smoking has decreased in all age groups except the 18-24 age groups which are the primary age range for university students (Rigotti, Morgan, & Wechsler, 2005). University students are more prone to trying or experimenting with various tobacco substances and are at high risk of developing lifelong addictions (Rigotti, Lee, & Wechler, 2000).

Alcohol consumption and addiction among university students has also been identified as a critical public health issue over the recent years (Patterson, Lerman, Kaufmann, Neuner, & Audrain-McGovern, 2004). Consequently there is a critical need to understand why university students are at higher risk for abuse of all substances at levels of education of twelve or more years.

Deas and Thomas (2002) define psychological factors as "patterns of thought and behavior that exist along a continuum in the general population - including for example, personality traits, self-esteem, and coping skills" (p.1). Psychological factors are generally related to behaviors and thought patterns that may influence drug and alcohol use and smoking behavior. Deas and Thomas (2002) further noted that stressful and/or traumatic events also suggest an increased risk for developing smoking behavior. These findings were made evident by Kilpatrick, Acierno, Saunders, Resnick, Best & Schnurr (2000); their research found that adolescents who witnessed and experienced stressful, violent, or traumatic situations were more inclined to experiment with various substances such as smoking, alcohol and other drugs.

For university students the value of friendships and social aspects can compensate for lack of family structure within the university environment. There is a major shift from parental influence to peer influence once students enter into college, to which friendships can allow for and determine levels of self-esteem and self- worth (Hartup, 1999).

Peer pressure, in particular, has been linked to substance usage in adolescents and has also been linked to high-risk behavior (Deas & Thomas, 2002; Santor, Messervey, & Kusumakar, 2000). The quality of the relationship between university students and their peers, as well as the type of peers they associate with, play important roles in aiding or impeding their current and future functioning. …

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