College Students’ Impulsivity and Aggression Linked to Heavy Drinking

College students who drink heavily and have high levels of aggression and impulsivity may be more likely than their calmer counterparts to continue heavy drinking after college, a new study suggests.

The researchers note that most college students who drink heavily do not continue to do so after they graduate, in part because they are no longer in the environment that led to their drinking, HealthDay reports.

“Some of the reduction is motivated by having to take on adult responsibilities, such as employment and starting a family,” lead author Cheryl Beseler of Colorado State University said in a news release. “However, some young adults continue to drink at levels that increase their risk of an AUD (alcohol-use disorder). We do not yet understand why this occurs, but probably the reasons include genetic and personality factors and interactions between them.”

The researchers asked 265 female and 96 male college students to take an anonymous online survey about their drinking patterns and personality traits. They found that among college students who drank heavily, those who drank to feel better, more impulsive and more aggressive had more characteristics thought to predict risk of future alcohol problems.

“If a college student knows they drink to make things more fun, is impulsive, and has a history of aggressive behavior, they may want to monitor their drinking,” Beseler said. “If a parent knows his or her child possesses these traits, they should be aware of the risks these personality traits might pose if their child is drinking too much. Additionally, those who treat alcohol problems in young adults may want to screen for these behaviors in their patients.”

The results appear online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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