A systems approach to college drinking: development of a deterministic model for testing alcohol control policies.J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2009; 70(5):805-21JS
The misuse and abuse of alcohol among college students remain persistent problems. Using a systems approach to understand the dynamics of student drinking behavior and thus forecasting the impact of campus policy to address the problem represents a novel approach. Toward this end, the successful development of a predictive mathematical model of college drinking would represent a significant advance for prevention efforts.
A deterministic, compartmental model of college drinking was developed, incorporating three processes: (1) individual factors, (2) social interactions, and (3) social norms. The model quantifies these processes in terms of the movement of students between drinking compartments characterized by five styles of college drinking: abstainers, light drinkers, moderate drinkers, problem drinkers, and heavy episodic drinkers. Predictions from the model were first compared with actual campus-level data and then used to predict the effects of several simulated interventions to address heavy episodic drinking.
First, the model provides a reasonable fit of actual drinking styles of students attending Social Norms Marketing Research Project campuses varying by "wetness" and by drinking styles of matriculating students. Second, the model predicts that a combination of simulated interventions targeting heavy episodic drinkers at a moderately "dry" campus would extinguish heavy episodic drinkers, replacing them with light and moderate drinkers. Instituting the same combination of simulated interventions at a moderately "wet" campus would result in only a moderate reduction in heavy episodic drinkers (i.e., 50% to 35%).
A simple, five-state compartmental model adequately predicted the actual drinking patterns of students from a variety of campuses surveyed in the Social Norms Marketing Research Project study. The model predicted the impact on drinking patterns of several simulated interventions to address heavy episodic drinking on various types of campuses.