Peer Advice Helps Cut Heavy Drinking Among College Students

Just one personalized intervention session from a fellow college student was effective in reducing alcohol consumption among heavy drinkers on campus, according to a new study from the Netherlands.

The Health Behavior News Service reported Jan. 27 that researchers led by Heleen Riper, Ph.D., of the Trimbos Institute in Utrecht found that one in eight of the students who received peer feedback about how their drinking aligned with norms among other college students later reduced their consumption to normal levels. The success rate compared favorably to similar interventions conducted by mental-health professionals.

“This is the most minimum intervention possible and the results were better than we thought,” said Riper, who noted that peer feedback could even be delivered by mobile phone or online. Riper said that student-to-student intervention “allows people to compare their own drinking to their own peer group, and you leave a lot of space for their own responsibility. You approach it more from a health point of view and comparison than from an approach of ’it’s forbidden to drink alcohol.’ I think that¹s a good motivation.”

The findings will appear in the March 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.