Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Female Students Play Drinking Games As Much As Males, But Stakes Are Higher

College women may be playing drinking games (i.e. Kings, Beer Pong, Quarters) at rates similar to college men, according to a study led by researchers at Loyola Marymount University. This is the first known study to address a potential increase in undergraduate women’s drinking game participation.

Historically, undergraduate men were thought to drink at higher levels than undergraduate women. Similarly, drinking game participation has traditionally thought to be a male-dominated activity.

However, information collected in this latest study indicated that both male and female college students participate in drinking games regularly and that participation in those games leads to increased consumption of alcohol. Results of the study appeared in the November 2006 issue of Addictive Behaviors journal.

The research also showed that drinking games lead to an increase in women’s binge-drinking (four drinks in a row for females, five drinks in a row for males). Further, in the women, but not the men, playing drinking games was related to more severe negative alcohol-related problems (i.e. missing class, driving under the influence, engaging in unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, etc.)

The study looked at 105 coed college students (35 males and 70 females averaging 18.84 years old) and tracked their drinking and drinking game playing habits for a 3-month period. Participants filled out a questionnaire and then, in one-on-one interviews and with a calendar as a visual aid, recalled their drinking indicating how many drinking events they participated in, how many of those involved drinking games, and how many standard drinks they drank each day, etc. (A standard drink is defined as a drink containing one-half ethyl alcohol—one 12 oz. beer, one 4 oz. glass of wine, or 1.25 oz. shot.)

In those 90 days the male students participated in 469 drinking events and 84 of those events involved drinking games. The female students participated in 915 drinking events and 187 of those involved drinking games. 64 percent of women and 57 percent of men participated in at least one drinking game in the 3-month period. While playing drinking games, men binge-drank 94 percent of the time (averaging 7.95 drinks) and women binge-drank 87 percent of the time (averaging 6.29 drinks).

“Motivation for drinking game participation may differ between men and women students,” said Joseph LaBrie, study author, director of LMU’s Heads Up! program, and professor of psychology at LMU. “Men tend to play drinking games for a variety of social reasons including competitiveness, to intoxicate oneself or others, or to bond with other male players. Our study, along with other recent studies on drinking in college students, suggests that women may be copying the heavy drinking behavior of males often in an effort to gain the esteem of male peers.”

The study –whose participants were 59 percent Caucasian, 15 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 15 percent Hispanic, 2 percent African American and 9 percent of “mixed” or “other” ethnicity—also indicated that non-Caucasian students were less likely to participate in drinking games and played fewer games than Caucasian students. However, drinking game participation in both women and non-Caucasian participants was related to negative consequences.

“If drinking games are a factor in increased alcohol-related consequences in women and non-Caucasians, then targeted interventions addressing drinking games may be necessary,” said LaBrie. “College health education and student affairs personnel may improve interventions by addressing drinking games and risky drinking.”

This study, co-authored by Eric R. Pedersen and LaBrie, was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and is one of many campus-drinking studies conducted by LMU’s Heads Up! program.

Heads Up! seeks to change the campus culture with respect to drinking by involving freshmen, student leaders, faculty, staff, and parents in a comprehensive alcohol awareness and prevention program. The Heads Up! staff works closely with LMU students to create awareness about responsible drinking and thoughtful decision-making through outreach programs and events. For more information on Heads Up!, go to www.lmu.edu/headsup.

To read the complete study and other Heads Up! program research papers, go to http://www.lmu.edu/page24935.aspx.

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