Lead author Lori Scott-Sheldon, an assistant professor at Brown University and researcher at the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam, and colleagues recommended colleges screen all freshmen within their first few weeks for alcohol risk and offer interventions for those who reported drinking.
The team examined the efficacy of 62 interventions delivered in randomized, controlled clinical trials involving more than 24,000 freshmen around the country during the last decade.
The researchers looked for patterns emerging from the trials that would reveal which interventions reduce drinking amount and frequency, and alcohol-related problems. The technique that provided the broadest benefits was providing students with a personalized feedback report that can include details such as how self-reported drinking compares to that of peers, the financial cost of alcohol consumed, calories consumed and sometimes even blood-alcohol levels.
Laying out this kind of information significantly helped students reduce the dimensions of drinking frequency, quantity and alcohol-related problems, the study said.
Researchers found different intervention techniques affected different things.
For example, challenging students' alcohol-related expectancies by sorting out what popular aspects of drinking are really related to alcohol -- versus the social context of partying -- significantly reduced the incidence of alcohol-related problems, but didn't significantly affect alcohol quantity, frequency of drinking days or frequency of heavy drinking.
Interventions that combined several techniques proved most effective, Scott-Sheldon said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.