Each year, more than 300,000 university students take part in European exchange programmes.
However, besides their positive educational and cultural impacts, these programmes are also reputed to immerse students in a high-risk festive context where excessive alcohol consumption is strongly present. A study evaluated the impact of exchange stays on alcohol consumption.
Nearly 4,000 study abroad and the same number of local European students completed a 2-part longitudinal survey and reported their alcohol consumption before (T1) and during (T2) their exchange stay (or at the beginning of the academic year and 6 months later for local students, constituting the control group).
During their exchange stay, individuals studying abroad showed more excessive and harmful alcohol consumption behaviours than local students, as measured by increased general alcohol consumption and binge drinking (BD) scores at T2. In particular, study abroad students under 20 years of age and performing their exchange stay in eastern Europe were the most exposed to excessive alcohol consumption and BD.
These results constitute the first large-scale longitudinal confirmation that exchange stays constitute risky contexts in which students significantly increase their consumption and present stronger alcohol-related problems. The study authors argue that it is essential to promote prevention campaigns targeting this population to limit public health consequences and possible evolution toward severe alcohol use disorders.
Source: Impact of Exchange Stay on Alcohol Consumption: Longitudinal Exploration in a Large Sample of European Students. Valérie Dormal, Séverine Lannoy, Pierre Maurage. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 29 April 2019.