Minnesota, USA -October 5, 2011 - The University of Wisconsin-Madison set out to discover if there is a link between alcohol use and drinking problem/intoxication among underage/college students; screening included a 10-question list, which accessed dependence, consumption, and any consequences to drinking habits.Surprisingly, schools cannot easily track students with drinking problems since they do not only seek medical care at the school medical facilities -most alcohol related injuries occur when these are not open. The researchers discovered that drinking problems could be easily detected on social networks such as Facebook, far more quickly.
The research conducted was based on a group of 224 students ages 18-20; researchers accessed their Facebook profiles -since they were 'public'. They discovered that 19.6% of the students referenced alcohol use on their pages while 16.1% actually displayed intoxication (through pictures or other means).
58.3% of the students displaying alcohol use could be considered 'at risk' for problem drinking. The authors of the research concluded, "Our findings suggest that targeting keywords that relate to (intoxication/problem drinking), rather than to general keywords regarding alcohol, may provide an innovative method to deliver a tailored message to a target population."
If you have a Facebook page, it is likely that there are a few people on your friends list who display signs of a drinking problem; out of the over 300 on my list, there is a high school classmate who definitely displays an alcohol problem. Just as the researchers suggested, he does not only mention 'alcohol' but other terms to get the information out there such as the phrases 'getting smashed' or 'another hangover on Tuesday', ETC.
A new 'social' trend is starting; it is where drinkers will go online and drink with friends on it rather than going out. This could also make it difficult to target 'problem drinkers.' Although these drinkers typically have an announcement on Facebook or Skype or through other means, it is important for friends and family to pay close attention so that they can get these young adults help prior to the problem consumes their lives.
Some speculate that there is more of a link between social networking and drinking than is found; when it comes to the new 'social' trend, in fact there is a direct link between them. Social networking may be posing a problem for individuals by encouraging isolation; even though these individuals are drinking with others on the 'other end' of video, they are still considered 'alone'.
If there is anyone in your friend list who is displaying signs of problem drinking, contact the person directly or the family and close friends of the individual; the only way to help someone is by ensuring that the loved ones are aware of the issue and can get it fixed.