Washington [US], August 16 (ANI): A new study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reflected on how the pandemic affected students' social lives and stress, based on their alcohol drinking patterns.
The findings of the study were published in the 'Journal of Adolescent Health'.
The study found that first-year college students are reporting drinking less alcohol and having fewer episodes of binge drinking four months into the coronavirus pandemic than they were before the pandemic started.
The study is based on the experiences of 439 Carolina students.
"We found that social factors, like social distancing and reductions in social support from friends, were associated with decreases in alcohol use among first-year students. By contrast, stress-related factors were less important," said lead study author Jane Cooley Fruehwirth, an associate professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center.
Her collaborators include Ben Gorman, a senior communications and neuroscience major in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Krista Perreira, a professor of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and a faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center.
The work builds on their previous research looking at the mental health of first-year college students during the pandemic.
Alcohol Usage Declines
Using survey data, researchers found the prevalence of alcohol use by first-year college students decreased from 54.2 per cent before the pandemic to 46 per cent mid-pandemic.
The prevalence of binge drinking dropped from 35.5 per cent before the pandemic to 24.6 per cent mid-pandemic.
"We followed the same group of first-year college students before and after the pandemic began, which allowed us to analyse Covid-related determinants of drinking behaviours while accounting for pre-existing alcohol use and social factors," said Gorman, who also runs the TEACH Initiative, an organisation which conducts near-peer substance use and mental health education in North Carolina high schools.
While the social factors dominated, stress did play a role for some students.
Difficulties with distanced learning were associated with increased drinking for students who were already consuming alcohol before the pandemic.
Furthermore, 20.5 per cent of students reported using alcohol or other drugs to cope with the pandemic.
"The dominance of social factors suggests that reductions in alcohol use may not be sustained once college students return to campus," said Fruehwirth.
"For students who were already drinking prior to the pandemic, universities can support them by providing ways to help them manage stress, through counselling, student support groups and particularly targeting challenges with distance learning through academic coaching," concluded Fruehwirth. (ANI)