COVID-19 cuts into faculty college students’ consuming

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COVID-19 cuts into college students' drinking

Photo credit: Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies

When the college campus closed in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of alcohol consumed by students decreased significantly when living from peers to parents. This comes from a new report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Leaving home for college is often associated with spikes in alcohol consumption, and the spring 2020 campus closure was the "perfect natural experiment" for studying changes in drinking habits as they change, according to lead researcher Helene R. White Life situation changed abruptly and unexpectedly for many students Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus at the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies at Rutgers, New Jersey State University.

However, according to this new study, it may not be just the parent's watchful eye that led to a drop in alcohol consumption.

"Drinking is a social behavior for students, and without social interaction students are less likely to drink a lot," says White. "Living together with parents can especially impair social interaction with people of the same age and thus protect against heavy alcohol consumption."

For their research, White and colleagues surveyed 312 emerging adults – mostly juniors and seniors – about two months after the COVID-19 campus closed in spring 2020. They asked the students about their life situation before and after their schools stopped personal learning, dividing the students into three groups: (a) living with their peers before and after the closure, (b) living with parents before and after the closure, and ( c) Living together with their peers before the closure, but with parents after the closure.

Investigators also asked about the students' typical weekly drinking before and after the closure. From these answers, White and colleagues determined the number of drinking days per week, the total number of drinks consumed weekly, and the maximum number of drinks consumed on a day.

Student alcohol users who switched from living with their peers to parents significantly reduced the number of days they drank per week, from 3.1 before closing to 2.7 after closing. Those who stayed with their peers increased their drinking days per week significantly from three to 3.7, and those who stayed with their parents increased from two to 3.3 per week.

Likewise, the total number of drinks per week for students moving home increased from 13.9 to 8.5. Those who continued to live with their peers drank essentially the same amount (10.6 drinks a week before versus 11 a week after), while those who continued to live at home drank almost three more drinks a week (6.7 weekly before 9.4 drinks per week) week after closing).

Those who switched from their peers to parents also saw a decrease in the maximum number of drinks per day – a maximum of 5.4 drinks per day before closing to 2.9 after closing. But those who stayed with their peers (4.4 versus 3.7) and with their parents (3.5 versus 3.2) from before to after the campus closed also recorded a decline.

"(C) Ontext is an important correlate for pandemic-induced drinking," the authors conclude. "The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of increasing social isolation" that is "less social drinking options" for students moving home.

New study shows that lockdown increases alcohol excesses every week

More information:
White, H. R., Stevens, A. K., Hayes, K. & Jackson, K. M. (2020). Changes in Alcohol Use Among College Students Due to COVID-19: Effects of Campus Closure and Moving Homes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 81, 725-730. DOI: 10.15288 / jsad.2020.81.725

To contact Helene R. White, Ph.D., please email interview questions to hewhite@smithers.rutgers.edu.

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