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Being With Friends and the Potential for Binge Drinking During the First College Semester

Alcohol use tends to increase in individuals during their transition for high school to college. Heavy drinking and binge drinking occur frequently within first year students and can increase the risk of long-term problems.

A recent study investigated the influence that high school friends have on college students’ binge drinking. 539 first year college students completed surveys at the beginning and end of their autumn semester to provide information on the presence of friends during their college transition and risk factors for alcohol use that they had experienced.

On average, each student had 2-3 friends who were also first year students at the university. The data shows that when few of their high school friends attended the same university, students who associated alcohol use with the role of being a student regularly drank in high school were at risk for binge drinking at the end of their first semester. This study also found that those who had more friends from high school at the university were less likely to binge drink.

Universities with students from a broad range of places could use these findings to engage with students who come to college with very few ties to home. Efforts can be made to increase these students’ networks and create programs to do so in order to hopefully regulate their drinking behaviors.

Take Away: Students who entered college with many friends from high school at the same institution were less likely to binge drink. Those who drank heavily in high school and have few friends attending the same university are likely to associate being a student with drinking, and to participate in binge drinking.

Crawford, L.A., Novak, K.B. (2018). Being With Friends and Potential for Binge Drinking During the First College Semester. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition. 30 (79-96)

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