Giving Students Personalized Feedback on Drinking Via Text Can Help Them Cut Back

Giving college students personalized feedback on their drinking habits through text messages and websites can help them cut back, a growing body of research suggests.

In-person interventions have been shown to reduce drinking by as much as 13 percent, The Wall Street Journal reports. Using text messages and online communication can dramatically increase access to proven techniques to reduce drinking, at a much lower cost, according to Robert Leeman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.

Four out of five college students drink alcohol, and about half of them binge drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Each year 1,825 students die from alcohol-related injuries.

Students using electronic intervention programs fill out an online questionnaire about their drinking. If they are identified as heavy drinkers, they are taken to a web page or sent a text that highlights their health risk, consequences and how they stack up against their peers in terms of drinking. They may get advice, such as keeping track of how much they drink each night.

One study found electronic intervention programs are more likely to reduce college drinking than general alcohol awareness programs. The study found successful programs give students information about their own drinking habits, and how much they drink compared with their peers.

“Most students overestimate the amount and frequency that other students are actually drinking, and research has shown that if you can correct this misperception, students’ drinking tends to decrease to be more in line with the true norm,” said study co-author Jessica Cronce of the University of Washington.

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