When in Rome: factors associated with changes in drinking behavior among American college students studying abroad.Psychol Addict Behav. 2010 Sep; 24(3):535-40.PA
Study abroad programs have the potential to promote cultural, experiential, and personal development for escalating numbers of American college students each year. Despite reports that study abroad students may be at particular risk for increased and problematic alcohol use, there is limited empirical documentation of this risk. Thus, the present study used a longitudinal design to examine the factors associated with changes in alcohol use among college students studying in foreign countries. A sample of 177 students completed measures of demographics, drinking behavior, and perceived peer drinking behavior 1 month before departure and 1-month postreturn from study abroad trips. Analyses revealed that participants more than doubled their drinking during study abroad trips and those who drank at heavier levels while abroad returned home drinking at significantly elevated levels. This pattern of increased use while abroad was moderated by several factors, with participants studying abroad in Europe (e.g., Italy, France) and Oceania (e.g., Australia, New Zealand), those under the age of 21, those with higher intentions of drinking while abroad, and those with higher drinking perceptions of other study abroad students in their host country increased their alcohol consumption to a greater extent than other participants. Results suggest drinking while abroad is a concern warranting further investigation, especially regarding how changes in drinking may contribute to the experience of alcohol-related consequences abroad. Continued identification of the risk factors associated with increased drinking can help inform targeted predeparture preventive interventions with these students.