Students overestimate peer alcohol use, study finds

A majority of college students overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers, according to a new study.

The study, published in Journal of Studies on Alcohol, found that over 70 percent of 76,000 college students at 130 U.S. colleges and universities overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers.

Such misperceptions effect individual alcohol consumption, according to the study, which revealed a direct correlation between the student’s perception of the campus drinking norm and the student’s personal alcohol consumption.

A student’s perception of how much his peers drink is a much stronger predictor of a student’s alcohol consumption than the actual drinking norm on the student’s campus, according to the study as reported by HealthDay News.

For each one-drink increase in a student’s perception of the norm, there is nearly a one-half drink increase in personal consumption as predicted by the study.

But a one drink increase in the actual norm only increased the average consumed drinks by a third of a drink.

The study found that 61 percent of the students at the school with the highest drinking norm overestimated it.

Perception is also a stronger predictor of alcohol consumption than gender and other predictors.

At schools with where most students did not drink, 21 percent of students correctly perceived that the typical student did not drink, and 60 percent thought it was common for fellow students to drink three or more alcoholic beverages at a social event.

At schools where students drank an average of four drinks at a party, the study found that 37 percent of students overestimated that norm by one or two drinks, and an additional 34 percent overestimated the norm even more.

According to HealthDay News, the study found that school programs to prevent misperceptions about drinking norms could deter negative consequences of alcohol consumption, such as fighting, self-harm and unprotected sex as well as decrease the amount of alcohol consumed.

Study respondents from schools with no programs to change perception were more than one-third as likely to have an estimated peak blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher than respondents from schools with such programs.

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