Researchers find Facebook alcohol statuses may reveal drinking problems

Louis Trigg

Students who post alcoholic references about “being drunk” may be most prone to significant drinking problems or alcohol-related injuries.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Washington examined Facebook profiles of more than 300 undergraduates at those universities. Subsequently, they split the profiles into three categories: those that contain no alcohol references completely, those with alcohol references but no mention of “getting drunk,” and those that contained references to “getting wasted” or other intoxicated behaviors.

In addition, they distributed an online version of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), a questionnaire used to measure significant drinking problems, to the profile owners.

The last group scored the highest in the questionnaire for being potential problem drinkers with an AUDIT score of 9.5. A score of 8 or higher indicates an individual is at risk for significant drinking behaviors.

“We found that underage college students who referenced dangerous drinking habits, such as intoxication or blacking out, were more likely to have AUDIT scores that indicate problem drinking or alcohol-related injury,” Megan A. Moreno, M.D., assistant professor of adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health said in the report.

The other two groups had average AUDIT scores of 4.7 and 6.7, respectively.

Colleges have long been known for binge-drinking environments among undergraduates, and ineffectiveness of health centers for students who display significant drinking problems. Because many students do not seek preventive health care, it may be difficult for them to identify problem drinking.

Researchers believe innovative analyses, such as the Facebook approach, can help make these problems more recognizable to parents, friends and peers.

[email protected]