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Subst Use Misuse. 2019 Feb 12:1-11. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2019.1567787. [Epub ahead of print]

A Longitudinal Study of European Students' Alcohol Use and Related Behaviors as They Travel Abroad to Study.

Author information

1
a Psychology Department , Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore , Milano , Italy.
2
b Violence & Society Research Group, School of Dentistry , Cardiff University , Cardiff , UK.
3
c Farr Institute - CIPHER , Swansea University College of Medicine , Swansea , UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Travelling away from home can be associated with fewer limits on behavior, particularly for students who participate in exchange programs.

AIMS:

To examine the effects of eight moderators on change in alcohol use and related negative outcomes, drug use and unprotected sexual behavior in European study abroad students before, during, and after their time abroad.

METHODS:

A three wave (before departure, while abroad, and after their return) longitudinal design collecting data on the frequency and volume of alcohol consumed, heavy episodic drinking, alcohol-related outcomes, drug use, and unprotected casual sex.

RESULTS:

The baseline survey was completed by 1145 students participating in one or two semester exchange programs (67.5% spent up to a semester abroad), of which 906 participated in two or more waves, representing 42 and 33 countries of origin and destination, respectively. Mean age was 22.2 years (SD = 2.28) and 72.7% were female. Students increased the amount of alcohol consumed by 35% (B = 0.32; 95% CI 0.287-0.349) and experienced more alcohol-related consequences (B = 0.15; 95% CI 0.089-0.219) during the study abroad experience, though levels fell below pre-departure levels when they returned home. Factors related to greater alcohol use while abroad include pre-departure expectations about alcohol use during the study abroad experience, psychological adjustment to the host country, academic involvement, and host country living costs. No statistically meaningful change in drug use and unprotected sexual behavior was observed.

CONCLUSIONS:

Studying abroad exposes European students to additional time-limited alcohol-related health risks.

KEYWORDS:

Alcohol; Erasmus program; drug use; longitudinal design; study abroad; university students; unprotected casual sex

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