O Week predictor of drinking

A study linking Orientation Week binge-drinking to later
drinking problems has been released as the furore surrounding
a weekend party continues to grow.

Research by the University of Otago department of psychology
found heavy drinking during O Week may be a gateway to
heavier drinking during the rest of the academic year.

Males who were light drinkers before coming to university may
be particularly susceptible to this gateway effect, the
study's findings suggest.

The findings come as the spotlight shines on student drinking
behaviour after a boozy party of 1000 people in Hyde St
resulted in the street looking ''like the Third World''.

The psychology department study showed high drinking rates
during Orientation Week predicted increased rates of drinking
during the academic year and this was especially true for

''When we controlled for pre-university drinking, men who
drank more during Orientation Week showed significantly
higher rates of drinking during the academic year - more than
what would be expected based on their pre-university drinking
rates,'' the study's findings, which will be published in the
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, said.

The study tracked the drinking behaviour of 143 male and
female residential college students during their first year
of study.

The study's worrying findings showed that people who drank at
low levels before university, but who drank heavily during O
Week, were nearly equivalent in their academic year drinking
to participants who drank at high levels before and during

''Students viewing Orientation Week as a one-off event or a
last blow-out before the real work begins should consider the
impact their drinking may have on their academic year,'' Dr
Tamlin Conner, co-author of the study, said.

More research was needed to show causal link between the
behaviours, but O Week might prove ''a prime target for
alcohol-based interventions in universities'', she said.

Dunedin alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ian Paulin
said the study's findings were troubling.

''No doubt there are some students who've never consumed
alcohol and are suddenly presented with choices that they
have never had before [during O Week],'' he said.

''Sadly, for some, these choices become habits.''

''We know that if you drink too much, you or someone else is
more likely to come to harm.

''It's a simple message: take responsibility for yourself and
look after your mates. Consider the impact that one night of
drinking too much alcohol could have on your friends and
family if things go wrong.''

Otago University Students' Association president Paul Hunt
said OUSA placed an emphasis on student safety during O Week.

Most of the trouble around excessive drinking was associated
with flat parties and pre-loading, he said.

''We would like to see more students in supervised
environments,'' he said.

''The issue is getting students into safe and supervised
environments earlier in the night.

''We are looking at ways to do that. There's no silver

Otago University Students' Association communications manager
Tess Trotter said OUSA hosted O Week events where consuming
alcohol was not the focus.

At other events, health and safety was a priority for the

''OUSA do provide lots of safety nets for people who might
have over-indulged. We are doing our upmost to make people
safe,'' she said.


Leave a Reply