Enrolling in College Does Not Lead to Later Substance Abuse Problems, Study Suggests

Enrolling in college does not lead to substance abuse problems later in life, despite high levels of binge drinking on campuses, a new study suggests. College enrollment may prevent adult substance abuse in students who would not be expected to attend college because of low household income or their mother’s low level of education, HealthCanal.com reports.

Researchers at Penn State University studied data from 1,092 high school seniors who participated in a national survey in 1979. The survey included information on whether the students enrolled in college a year later. The participants were contacted when they were 33 years old, and asked about their alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

They found adults were more than six times as likely to engage in problem drinking at age 33 if they did not attend college.

“Hypothetically, if we could send everyone in the United States to college, that would be protective overall and would significantly reduce problematic substance use in adulthood,” lead researcher Stephanie Lanza said in a news release. “But because it’s not the reality that everyone in the United States goes to college, we had to apply our statistical techniques to balance the data. After doing that, we found that college enrollment does not protect against problem drinking, nor does it place individuals at risk for future problem drinking.”

The results will be published in the journal Structural Equation Modeling.

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    March 15, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    Hard to dispute their rather obvious common sense “research” conclusion that college attendance does not protect against problematic drinking. But it seems less clear what they are suggesting about later adult problematic drinking among those who attended college. Other research studies point to the collegiate excessive drinking experience of some as a predictor of their later adult problematic drinking. But, certainly, adults can become problematic drinkers whether or not they attend college. Attending college does not mean that an adult will later become a problem drinker, despite their drinking experiences while there, and non-attendance does not mean an adult will avoid later problematic drinking. Glad we’ve solved that question.

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