The next time you see a status update on Facebook from a college-age kid that says something like, “Oh man, I got so wasted last night!” don’t just roll your eyes. He may be announcing to the world that he has a drinking problem. That’s according to new research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
The study focused on college students – because about 1700 of them die each year from alcohol-related overdoses, car accidents or injuries. And Facebook may offer a clue about whether a person’s drinking is harmful.
So researchers from the University of Wisconsin looked at over 300 public profiles of college students. They categorized them 3 ways: “Non-displayers” were kids who didn’t mention alcohol on Facebook – “alcohol displayers” were those who shared news or pictures about alcohol, like “I had a couple beers last night” – and “problem drinkers” were college kids who posted comments about how seriously wasted they were, like “I’ve been hung over all weekend.” Then, those kids filled out surveys about their alcohol use.
It turns out, 35 percent of the kids surveyed were at-risk for problem drinking – and those same kids were the ones who posted stuff on Facebook about how drunk they were. Students who shared drinking war stories or drunken pictures on Facebook were 2 times more likely than the average student to have a drinking problem. They were also six times as likely to have an alcohol-related injury – from a fist fight to a car accident.
The takeaway? If parents start to see references to drunkenness on Facebook, it’s time to pick up the phone and have a tough conversation with your kid.