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News Flash: Study-abroad students drink a lot

Jenna Johnson

We've all seen Facebook photos from semesters spent studying abroad: No drinking age! European beer! Flaming shots! Tour de Franzia! Hot Italians in dance clubs! Booze for breakfast!

Yes, yes, studying abroad is an absolutely amazing opportunity to immerse oneself in a different culture, become fluent in a foreign language and rack up even more student loan debt. But, come on, it's also an opportunity to party.

University of Washington researchers found that college students doubled their alcohol consumption while abroad. At home, they had about four drinks a week. Abroad, eight. It's unclear if that drinking is risky (a crazy Saturday night filled with binge drinking) or more tame (a glass of wine with dinner every night), researchers said in a university news release. But when students returned to the states, they again reduced the amount they drank.

The legal drinking age in foreign countries is usually lower than 21, and underage students nearly tripled their weekly drinking allotment when overseas. The drunkest study abroad destinations: Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The researchers recommended that colleges create prevention programs that target students who are already heavy drinkers or plan to drink heavily while abroad. They explained why in a news release:

Like heavy drinking on campus, consequences of drinking while studying abroad can be mild, such as missed classes due to hangovers, or more severe, such as fights, injuries and regrettable sexual experiences. But heavy drinking while in a different country can present additional problems, including disrupted travel plans, promoting negative stereotypes of American students and even legal issues with a foreign government.

The study is based on a survey of 177 students who studied abroad for three to five months. Before they left, they completed a survey saying how much they drink each week, how much they planned to drink abroad and their perceptions about study abroad drinking habits. A month after they returned, they filled out another survey. The research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and was published in the latest issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | October 13, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
Categories:  Night Life  | Tags:  University of Washington  
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Next: The five types of college drinkers


well, duh.
This is not news. This was true in 1964 ... probably true in 1564 as well.

Posted by: kcbrady | October 14, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

None of this is news. What I would like to know if these young people drink more than their peers in the country they are visiting, or less.

BTW, the definition of "binge drinking" is four drinks in a day. So if you have a glass of wine with lunch, two with dinner (very common indeed in most European countries) and an apéritif or a nightcap, you are a binge drinker. Congratulations.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | October 14, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!
Here's another news flash: English universities (and there may be others) have bars in their colleges.

Posted by: jlhare1 | October 14, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

When I went to JMU, the campus sponsored student grill, on the top floor of the student union building, served pitchers of beer really cheap. Gallons of beer. And the best popcorn and hot ham sandwiches. Hmm. To make you want to buy more beer. Hmm.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | October 14, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

We never had bars on campus at Penn, but in my world travels, I've seen plenty of fine bars and pubs in student unions. I am very fond of one at Manchester University, just under the Academy venues. The students do not appear to have suffered for it.

Last time we had a debate about lowering the drinking age to 18, the Carrie Nations of our country had a field day with the insults.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | October 14, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

It is not surprising that in a country that has no drinking age and whose citizens drink more, on average, than U.S. citizens, students studying abroad would drink more. What is important to understand is that alcoholism rates are correspondingly higher in European countries whose citizens drink more. It is a myth that having no drinking age leads to responsible drinking. Italy, for example is suffering from an epidemic of alcoholism that has overloaded its rehab clinics. The average age of first drink is 12, and alcohol is the third leading cause of death and disability, not even counting traffic accidents.

Posted by: virtualchemist | October 15, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

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