Personalized Feedback Can Help Reduce College Freshman Drinking

A program that provides college freshmen with personalized feedback on their drinking patterns can be effective in reducing their drinking, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Brown University reviewed studies of 62 programs designed to reducing drinking among college freshmen, which included more than 24,000 freshmen from around the country.

They concluded colleges should screen all freshmen within their first few weeks of school for alcohol risk, and offer interventions for those who said they drink, UPI reports. The program that provided the broadest benefits gave students a personalized feedback report, which included information such as how students’ own drinking compared with that of their peers, the costs of alcohol consumed, number of calories consumed, and blood alcohol levels. Students who had this information significantly reduced how much and how often they drank, the study found.

In addition to personalized feedback, other effective strategies include teaching students to alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, setting blood alcohol level limits, and identifying especially risky situations, such as fraternity house parties, the researchers found.

“Adoption of our recommended strategies would enable colleges to become more proactive – that is, targeting interventions to those students who have initiated alcohol use and may experience some alcohol-related problems but before their alcohol use meets criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse,” study lead author Lori Scott-Sheldon said in a news release.

The researchers cautioned that even the most effective programs do not completely stop freshmen from drinking. But even small changes in drinking patterns can have a large effect when implemented broadly, noted study co-author Kate Carey. “Small effect sizes mean that any given person may change just a little as a result of an intervention, but when we expand the effects to the whole freshman class we would expect prevention programs like those we reviewed to have a public health impact,” she said.

The study is published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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