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Perceived Descriptive Norms for Alcohol Use among Tribal College Students: Relation to Self-reported Alcohol Use, Consequences, and Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol misuse among college students continues to be a concern across the United States. Previous studies have shown that college students also tend to misperceive how much alcohol their college peers are consuming. This research study attempts to collect information on relationships between perceived descriptive alcohol use norms along with student’s own alcohol use throughout tribal college and university students.

To complete the study 3,174 students were used from the Tribal Colleges and Universities Creating Campus Change study. The researchers used baseline alcohol consumption found in this study in which they underwent a brief alcohol intervention. To complete their own study, participants were asked about alcohol use during the past three months. The students also filled out a questionnaire about how many drinks they thought a typical male or female college student consumes. Finally, they asked participants about consequences they experienced in the last year due to alcohol. The results showed that perceived number of drinks per week was around an average of 15 and the self-reported alcohol use was 4 drinks per week.

The data shows that perceived descriptive drinking norms exceeded the actual sample average of self-reported drinking. The researchers also found that higher perceived norms were correlated to higher self-reported drinking overall along with being more likely to be a drinker and having alcohol-related consequences. This study is also unique because it specifically focuses on students from tribal college and university students. These findings suggest that it may be beneficial for colleges and universities to provide education on correcting misperceptions of the normal drinking habits of college students to potentially reduce drinking among the students.

Take Away: The current study looks at relationships between perceived descriptive alcohol use compared to student’s actual alcohol use throughout tribal college and university students. 3,174 young adults were surveyed to find out about alcohol use along with what they thought typical drinking habits are for college students. What they found was that perceived descriptive drinking norms exceeded the actual sample average of self-reported drinking. Also, the participants that had higher perceived norms were correlated to higher self-reported drinking. These finding suggest it may be beneficial to provide education to students on correcting misperceptions of the normal drinking habits of college students.

Lostutter, T., Rhew, I., Eakins, D., Lynch, A., … Duran, B. (2019). Perceived Descriptive Norms for Alcohol Use among Tribal College Students: Relation to Self-reported Alcohol Use, Consequences, and Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder. Addictive Behaviors, 106158. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106158

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