Alcohol interventions unsuccessful for fraternity and sorority members

A new study from The Miriam Hospital and The Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies found that interventions targeting fraternity or sorority members at colleges around the country were unsuccessful in reducing alcohol consumption and related problems. The study recommends that more robust interventions be created for use with student members of Greek letter organizations. The paper was published today in Health Psychology.

“Alcohol use is highly prevalent among U.S. college students, but especially so among members of fraternities and sororities,” said Lori Scott-Sheldon, PhD, a senior research scientist in The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University.

Despite disciplinary actions by universities or national chapters, alcohol misuse among members of fraternities and sororities continues to be a serious problem nationwide.

Using meta-analysis – a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies – the researchers conducted a systematic review of the literature on alcohol interventions for this at-risk group of college students from 1987 to 2014.

“Research shows that interventions delivered to heavier drinkers can produce strong and enduring reductions in alcohol consumption,” Scott-Sheldon said. “But what is working for the broader college student population has been less effective for fraternity and sorority members, and we need to refine or create new interventions that work better for these students.”

On the positive side, the study found that interventions that addressed alcohol expectancies – beliefs about the perceived consequences of drinking – reduced alcohol consumption on specific occasions or days such as weekend drinking. However, interventions that provided moderation strategies, skills training or goal setting were less effective.

“It is important to note that nearly 80 percent of the samples were fraternity members,” Scott-Sheldon added. “More data are needed on the efficacy of interventions for members of sororities especially given that studies have shown sorority women are more likely to experience sexual assault than non-sorority women.”

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