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Does Facebook Hold Clues to Problem Drinking?

Study Suggests Link Between Online Comments on Drinking and Alcohol Problems for College Students

Identifying Alcohol Problems

Two hundred and sixteen of the students took the test known as AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test).

Their scores ranged from zero to 26. The average was 5.8. A score of 8 or higher is the cutoff for at-risk problem drinking. In all, 35.4% of the students scored in the at-risk category.

When Moreno compared the Facebook content and the scores, she found those whose comments and photos reflected drunkenness most likely to score in the at-risk category, with:

  • 58.3% of those whose online content reflected intoxication or problem drinking at risk.
  • 37.8% of those whose online content talked about alcohol use, but not intoxication, at risk.
  • 22.6% of those who didn't mention alcohol at risk.

Those who talked about intoxication were more than twice as likely as those who talked about alcohol use -- but not intoxication -- to have an alcohol-related injury in the past year. They were six times as likely to have an alcohol-related injury as those who had no alcohol references.

Second Opinion

The findings make sense to W. Keith Campbell, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. He has researched social networking and narcissism, a self-centeredness with a need for admiration. He reviewed the new study findings for WebMD.

In his research, he has found that people who display narcissism are more likely to post provocative pictures, for instance.

Likewise, he says, the new research is finding that using Facebook is ''a reasonable way to gather information about someone that is accurate."

The finding could help those concerned about someone's possible problem drinking take action, Campbell says.

"If you are a parent or a friend of someone and see lots of examples of drinking [posted online], it might be a cue or a clue to go talk to the person," he says. "I would not use this [information] as a diagnostic."

However, it could offer a clue to problem drinking that seems somewhat accurate, he says.

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