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Study finds alcohol interventions unsuccessful for fraternity and sorority members

Better interventions are needed to reduce heavy drinking and related problems


PROVIDENCE, R.I. - 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."


Study co-authors include Kate B. Carey, PhD, of Brown School of Public Health; Tyler S. Kaiser and Jennifer M. Knight, of the The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine; and Michael P. Carey, PhD, director of The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.

About The Miriam Hospital

The Miriam Hospital is a 247-bed, not-for-profit teaching hospital affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. It offers expertise in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, men's health, and minimally invasive surgery and is home to the state's first Joint Commission-certified Stroke Center and robotic surgery program. The hospital, which received more than $23 million in external research funding last year, is nationally known for its HIV/AIDS and behavioral and preventive medicine research, including weight control, physical activity and smoking cessation. Named 2015-16 best regional hospital in Rhode Island and the Providence metro area by U.S. News & World Report, The Miriam Hospital has been awarded Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services five times and is a founding member of the Lifespan health system. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@MiriamHospital) and Pinterest.

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