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Undergrads' impulsivity, aggression linked to continued alcohol problems

October 15, 2011 - Washington

Undergraduates who are heavy drinkers are more likely to abuse alcohol and be at risk for alcohol-related problems if they have high levels of impulsivity and aggression, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from an anonymous online survey of 361 undergraduates (265 females, 96 males)

In a national survey of undergraduates, roughly six percent met criteria for current alcohol dependence (AD), and approximately 31 percent met criteria for current alcohol abuse.

"Many, if not most, undergraduate college students reduce their level of drinking after they graduate from college and are no longer in the environment that led to their drinking," said Cheryl L. Beseler, a researcher at Colorado State University and corresponding author for the study.

"Some of the reduction is motivated by having to take on adult responsibilities, such as employment and starting a family. However, some young adults continue to drink at levels that increase their risk of an AUD.

"We do not yet understand why this occurs, but probably the reasons include genetic and personality factors and interactions between them.

"Our most interesting finding is that we found two groups of college students who drank at fairly high levels," said Beseler, "but one group was more inclined to drink to feel better, more impulsive, and more aggressive than the other group, which also drank a lot of alcohol."

"If a college student knows they drink to make things more fun, is impulsive, and has a history of aggressive behavior, they may want to monitor their drinking," said Beseler.

"If a parent knows his or her child possesses these traits, they should be aware of the risks these personality traits might pose if their child is drinking too much. Additionally, those who treat alcohol problems in young adults may want to screen for these behaviours in their patients," she added.

The study will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.


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