Powered by The Ohio State University

News & Research

Examining the Relationship between Social Norms, Alcohol-Induced Blackouts, and Intentions to Blackout Among College Students

Young adults on college campuses have been known to participate in heavy episodic drinking which is linked to alcohol-induced blackouts, death, injury, and sexual assault. The goal of this study was to answer the questions of if students drinking with intention of blackout out have different levels of social norms, is drinking to blackout associated with recent alcohol-induced blackout history, and are social norm levels associated with drinking to blackout and recent alcohol-induced blackout history.

4,430 undergraduate students from a midsized midwestern university participated in this study. Participants were asked about alcohol consumption in the past 30 days, alcohol-induced blackouts, and social norms perceptions. Blackout questions included “Have you ever had a blackout?” and “In the past 30 days, have you had a blackout as the results of alcohol consumption?” Other questions surrounded around details of the blackout itself. Descriptive norms were assessed by asking participants how much they thought different groups of people drink alcohol. Injunctive norms were measured using fourteen questions that asked how acceptable participants though different behaviors are.

Results showed that 77% reported prior alcohol consumption with 21% experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout at least once in the past 30 days. The results also showed that those who intended to blackout or those who reported past 30 day blackout were more likely to have the highest drinking occasions, report higher drinking levels, and also believed that their friends approved of these behaviors. 16% of participants reported not having intentions to blackout but did experience a blackout that drinking day. Overall, social norms were found to be associated with blackout intentions and blackout history. This is important when educating students about peer approval of alcohol-related behaviors along with adjusting social norms surrounding alcohol-induced blackouts.

Take Away: The goal of this study was to answer the questions surrounding students’ intentions of experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout and any associations between these blackouts and social norm levels. 4,430 undergraduate students were recruited and asked about alcohol consumption in the past 30 days, alcohol-induced blackouts, and social norms perceptions. Results showed that 77% reported prior alcohol consumption with 21% experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout at least once in the past 30 days. The results also showed that those who intended to blackout or those who reported past 30 day blackout were more likely to have the highest drinking occasions, report higher drinking levels, and also believed that their friends approved of these behaviors. Overall, social norms were found to be associated with blackout intentions and blackout history. 

Ward, R. M., & Guo, Y. (2020). Examining the relationship between social norms, alcohol-induced blackouts, and intentions to blackout among college students. Alcohol, 86, 35-41. doi:10.1016/j.alcohol.2020.03.008

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Our Founding Partners