NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - College parties that boast drinking games or sexualized themes or costumes may encourage students to drink to a particularly excessive degree, a new study suggests.
The study, by researchers at San Diego State University, differs from past research that has surveyed college students about their drinking. Instead, research assistants actually went to dozens of college parties and witnessed the goings-on themselves. They also conducted breath-tests on party-goers for blood alcohol concentrations.
What they found was that students who played drinking games tended to imbibe more, as did women at “theme” parties — especially those with sexualized themes.
For the study, researchers evaluated 1,304 individuals at 66 college parties near San Diego State and recorded their observations on the nature of the party and behavior of the party-goers. A few parties had sexual themes — lingerie parties, for instance, and events labeled “anything but clothes.”
They found that blood alcohol levels tended to be higher at parties that featured drinking games, as well as at sexual-theme parties — although, only women drank more at the theme parties. The results are published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The findings on drinking games may not be especially surprising. The point of them, after all, is to drink quickly and get drunk, noted lead investigator Dr. John D. Clapp, of San Diego State’s Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Studies and Services.
This study did not look at students’ drinking-related problems per se. But, Clapp told Reuters Health, “we know from past research that if students avoided playing drinking games and better controlled their rate of alcohol consumption, they would reduce their risk for problems.”
The finding that women drank more at theme parties — and in fact drank more than men in these instances — is surprising, according to Clapp and his colleagues. More research is needed to understand why this might be, they write.
Clapp said that some local governments and universities are starting to pass new ordinances aimed at curbing underage drinking at college parties. Some of these hold party hosts legally responsible for serving alcohol to underage guests; in other cases, anti-noise ordinances zero in on addresses that are “problem spots” and bar them from having parties.
“Basically, the potential liabilities for college party hosts have increased, so students should be concerned at that level,” Clapp noted.
He and his colleagues are also testing some “party host interventions” that educate students on their potential liabilities in throwing an alcohol-centric party, and on ways to control their guests’ drinking — including saying no to drinking games.
SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, January 2008.