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Life After Animal House

Being a party animal in college may be less detrimental to your future than you think. A new study, published in this month's Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, concludes that college fraternity members drink more than non-Greeks, but that heavy drinking does not usually continue after college. The researchers note that peer perceptions have a lot to do with it: "College students will drink more alcohol when they are around friends who also drink a lot, whether in their fraternity house or a resort town on spring break with 30 friends," said co-author Kenneth Sher of the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Prior surveys concluded that seven out of eight college students drink, and that about 44 percent drink heavily at times. So Sher and his colleague Bruce Bartholow of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill surveyed 319 college students about their drinking habits once a year while they were in college, and again three years after they graduated. The students were asked what positive effects they expected from drinking alcohol, what their friends thought of drinking, and how many of them drank and how often. The researchers also looked at academic ability, pre-college academic performance and major personality traits.

They found that whereas both male and female students were prone to drink more if they were members of Greek organizations, their alcohol consumption three years after college was statistically no different from that of non-Greeks. "Once the students leave campus they are no longer immersed in a social environment that supports heavy drinking, and their drinking decreases as a result."

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