Spring Break, Bro!

Spring breakers may be protected from risky behavior if they have an understanding with friends

(RxWiki News) Every year, college students around the U.S. plan to party hard during spring break. The understandings that these students have with their friends about alcohol and sex are predictors of their behavior.

dailyRx Insight: Friends who talk with each other before they leave for Spring Break about sex and drinking are better able to stay out of trouble.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Penn State surveyed 651 college freshman before and after their spring break adventures. They found that the understandings that students had with their friends were predictors of alcohol use and sexual behavior.

The researchers found that approximately 60 percent of the freshmen interviewed had some sort of understanding with friends about drinking alcohol during spring break. Almost 24 percent agreed with friends that they would get drunk, while 18 percent agreed to not get drunk.

According to lead author Megan Patrick, a developmental psychologist and a Faculty Research Fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, students who went on spring break trips were almost four times more likely than other students to partake in binge drinking.

Men were much more likely than women to have understandings with friends to take part in risky behavior. For example, 29 percent of men had understandings with friends to get drunk compared to 18 percent of women. Furthermore, 9 percent of men had agreed with friends to have sex with somebody new compared to 2 percent of women.

On the other side of things, female freshmen were more likely than their male counterparts to make agreements about safer behavior. For instance, 23 percent of women agreed with friends not to get drunk, while only 14 percent of men made the same agreement. Women were more than twice as likely as men to have an agreement with friends not to have sex with somebody new. However, agreements to use condoms were more common among men than among women.

Not surprisingly, the study also reported that students who went on spring break trips were almost four times as likely as other students to binge drink. Approximately 9 percent of spring breakers reported having unprotected sex.

According to Patrick, the agreements that students make with each other to engage in safer behavior may have a protective effect. When students having understandings and are looking out for each other, they are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

Binge drinking - a pattern of drinking that brings an individual's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or higher - is linked to many health problems, such as alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, unintentional injuries, unintended pregnancies, cardiovascular diseases, and liver disease among others. Among those who drink, the 18- to 20-year-old age group has the highest proportion of binge drinkers.

The University of Michigan study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, appears in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Review Date: 
February 14, 2011