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College Students Taking a Semester Overseas Double Their Drinking While Away

Students under the age of 21 who go overseas increase their drinking even more dramatically.

University of Washington researchers wanted to know what going away to study for a semester abroad while in college did to a person’s drinking habits.

To find out, they interviewed 177 students about to study abroad about their drinking habits and intended drinking plans while away, and then followed up with each student after they returned from overseas study to find out how much drinking actually occurred.

They found that:

  • On average, students increased their drinking while abroad by about double (a 105% increase)
  • Underage students (under 21) drank substantially more while overseas, increasing their average weekly consumption by 170%
  • Most students returned to pre-trip drinking levels upon return to the States
  • Travelers who went to  Europe, Australia and New Zealand sported the largest jump in average drinking
  • Those who said they intended on drinking heavily while away, not surprisingly, did so

Lead researcher, University of Washington grad student Eric Pedersen says that although he knows that drinking increase while away, that, “We can't really say if this is risky drinking or not. This could be a drink a night – a glass of wine at dinner – over the course of a week.”

Mary Larimer, director of the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors at the University of Washington commented on the implications of the results and the possibility for harm reduction, saying, "Working with these students pre-departure is a terrific opportunity to help reduce their risks for drinking consequences while abroad, and may also help prevent difficulties when they return home.”

The full study results can be read in the current edition of The Journal of Addictive Behaviors.

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