Facebook Helps Identify Problematic Drinkers

Alcohol abuse may be identified by social media sites

(RxWiki News) Not everyone in college drinks alcohol, but every student is affected whether it’s directly or indirectly. Facebook and other social media sites can help identify under-age drinking.

Most students are unwilling to go to their school health centers for problems, if they even believe they have a problem, so it’s difficult to screen alcohol-related problems at the college level. That’s where social networks come into play.

Who would’ve thought Facebook could be so useful? Researchers have used Facebook to gather data about alcohol abuse and alcohol-related injuries.

"Facebook tells you a lot more than just demographics."

Megan A. Moreno, M.D., M.Sed., M.P.H., from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and team studied students from two state universities who were between the ages of 18 and 20. Their public Facebook profiles were categorized into three different groups: nondisplayers, alcohol displayers and intoxication/problem drinking (I/PD) displayers.

The researchers used a screening tool called the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) to examine alcohol problems. The AUDIT scale is made up of ten questions on topics like consumption, dependence and harm/consequences from alcohol use. A score of eight or higher means that a person is at risk for drinking problems.

The study included 224 participants who had an average age of 18.8. There were 122 females and 152 male students involved.

The researchers found that profiles who were categorized as I/PD displayers were more likely to score higher on the AUDIT scale putting them at a higher risk for drinking problems. They also found that those I/PD displayers had higher overall ADUIT scores and were more likely to report alcohol-related injuries.

This study suggests college screening can be done by using social media sites and those who are categorized as I/PD displayers should be screened for drinking problems.

The cross-sectional survey was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on October 3, 2011.

Review Date: 
October 4, 2011