Giving Compass' Take:

• Jessi Adler explains that peer pressure is an important factor in determining colleges' drinking habits and can be used to reduce drinking. 

• How can funders use this information to help reduce drinking - particularly binge drinking - among college students? 

• Learn about the high impact opportunity of addressing adolescent drinking

Peer approval is the best indicator of the tendency for new college students to drink or smoke, even if they don’t want to admit it, according to a new study.

This new finding is key to help universities address the problems of underage or binge drinking, says lead author Nancy Rhodes, an associate professor in the advertising and public relations department at Michigan State University.

“We need to change our intervention approach to amplify the voices of those who don’t approve of this kind of behavior, such as students who are disturbed at 3 am by drunk dormmates arriving home,” Rhodes says.

We suggest that emphasizing the social costs of these behaviors may be a promising strategy. Most importantly, the messages need to come from peers themselves, not authority figures.

Previous studies and social-norm approaches to curb these risky behaviors have focused on the perceived prevalence of students who drink or smoke, not whether the behavior is socially approved.

Read the full article about getting college students to avoid drinking by Jessi Adler at Futurity.