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Posted: October 16, 2013

UNTHSC researcher says student drinkers learn more from some mistakes than others

UNTHSC Scott Walters Public Health
Scott Walters, PhD
College freshmen who drink too much learn more from some mistakes than others, a UNT Health Science Center researcher reports.

In a large national sample of incoming college freshman, heavy drinkers who hurt themselves, damaged property or experienced other external harms were the most likely to take precautions the next time they drank, said Scott Walters, PhD, Professor of Behavioral and Community Health.

"Students who were older, non-white, or female were the most likely to learn from their mistakes, regardless of what kind of problems they experienced," he said.

Internal consequences, such as a hangover, did not significantly influence the students' drinking patterns, according to the study published online in Substance Use & Misuse.

Interestingly, students who reported recent drinking and driving were less likely to plan to drink carefully in the future, Dr. Walters said.  This suggests that young people who drink and drive without any penalty may actually be emboldened to drink heavily in the future.

The insight into student's behavior could lead to intervention programs tailored to specific populations, or highlight specific kinds of problems that are commonly experienced by drinkers.

Walters coauthored the article with colleagues from Texas Tech, Boston University, and EverFi, an education technology company.

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