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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identifying the characteristics of moderate drinkers: an exploratory study Dunn, Shannon


A review of the literature on drinking behaviour of university students reveals that most research focuses on binge drinking behaviour: a serious concern that has the attention of the World Health Organization. Binge drinking is of particular concern for university students as they are a high risk subset in an already high risk age group. This thesis explores the characteristics of university students who choose to drink moderately in this otherwise high risk environment. The purpose of this exploratory study is to better understand who the moderate drinkers are, what are their consumption habits and what are their perceptions of alcohol and the alcohol consumption of their peers? This study is informed by two theoretically frameworks: positive psychology as the overarching lens focusing on those students who drink responsibly and social norm theory which holds that students are influenced by what they perceive others to be doing and thereby alter their own behaviour and thoughts to meet this perception. The participants are composed of three hundred and forty-eight undergraduate students registered in their first year of study living in on-campus university residences. Data is collected using an on-line survey including both forced choice and open-ended response questions. According to participant’s self-reported data, over 40% of male participants and 50% of female participants self-identify as moderate drinkers. These moderate drinkers view their relationship with alcohol as either positive or neutral yet highly over-estimate the frequency and consumption levels of alcohol of their peers and do not perceive that any of their peers abstain from alcohol. The findings further reveal that moderate drinkers see themselves as unique from their peer group. Self-identified moderate drinkers rarely feel pressure to drink more, feel alcohol has little or no importance to them in social settings and do not consider drinking habits as a factor in selecting their choice of friends. Self-identified moderate drinkers were consistent with prior research findings in over-estimating the consumption of their peers but do not appear to allow this misperception to influence their own drinking habits.

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