BACKGROUND: High volumes of alcohol consumption and risky single occasion drinking (RSOD) among university students have been shown to be associated with considerable harm to both those who consume alcohol and their fellow students. The vast majority of these studies are based on US and Canadian samples. AIM: The present article provides an overview of the characteristics of alcohol-consuming university students in Europe.

METHOD: 65 relevant articles published within the last 20years using European student populations could be identified.

RESULTS: Sociodemographic, individual, social, and university-related characteristics associated with alcohol consumption patterns could be identified. Male students, in particular, tended to consume alcohol more often and in higher quantities, including RSOD. Students consumed alcohol chiefly during social gatherings and for social and enhancement motives. Those without family obligations and those living alone, with roommates or in areas with a high density of students were more likely to consume alcohol in higher quantities, and to engage in RSOD. Students tend to overestimate the extent of their fellow students' alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: Health promotion and prevention efforts which focus on these characteristics (i.e., gender, drinking motives, living conditions and social norms), and which have been successful and evaluated among university students in the US and Canada, may also be very promising for their European counterparts.

Most evidence on the motives-alcohol use link has come from cross-sectional research using retrospective assessments. It remains also to be demonstrated whether motives predict drinking in particular circumstances. In the present study, drinking motives assessed 2 weeks prior to a diary study were used to predict the number of drinks on weekend days as reported via short message service (SMS). Multilevel regression models were estimated based on 391 reports from 55 participants (mean age 22.7). The results revealed that enhancement motives but not gender, age, or social, coping, or conformity motives predicted weekend drinking over and above usual consumption. Consumption and motives together explained more than three-quarters of the inter-individual variance in weekend drinking. To conclude, this study points to a heavy episodic weekend drinking culture of young people who drink large quantities on Friday and Saturday nights apparently because they are seeking fun and excitement. Preventive measures should aim to counteract young people's drinking at peak times and in high-risk situations.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate time-trend changes in the frequency of drunkenness among European and North American adolescents.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional surveys in the 1997/1998 and 2005/2006 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study (HBSC).

SETTING: High schools in 23 countries.

PARTICIPANTS: A sample of 77 586 adolescents aged 15 years was analyzed by means of hierarchical linear modeling. Main Outcome Measure The frequency of drunkenness.

RESULTS: We observed a significant increase of about 40% in the mean frequency of drunkenness in all 7 participating Eastern European countries. This increase was evident among both genders, but most consistently among girls. Meanwhile, it declined in 13 of 16 Western countries, about 25% on average. Declines in Western countries were particularly notable among boys and in North America, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Despite this gender convergence, with few exceptions (Greenland, Norway, United Kingdom) boys continued to have a higher frequency of drunkenness in 2005/2006 than girls.

CONCLUSIONS: The confirmed cultural convergence implies that adoption and implementation of evidence-based measures to mitigate the frequency of adolescent drunkenness such as tax increases and restricting alcohol access and advertisement should get the same priority in Eastern European countries as in Western countries. Policy measures that might facilitate decreases in drunkenness such as server training and the promotion of alcohol-free leisure-time activities should be reinforced in Western countries. The gender convergence implies that prevention policy should be less exclusively focused on male adolescents.

OBJECTIVE: The association between the alcohol use of parents and their offspring is well established. However, little is known about the factors underlying, or mediating, this link. This study investigated whether drinking motives mediate the link between the drinking habits of parents and the frequency of their adolescent children's alcohol consumption and drunkenness.

METHOD: A nationally representative sample of 1,854 13- to 15-year-old students in Switzerland who drink alcohol was analyzed. Structural equation modeling was used to test mediation.

RESULTS: As soon as drinking motives were included in the model, the previously significant link between the drinking habits of parents and the frequency of their adolescent children's alcohol consumption was reduced and was no longer significant for drunkenness. Thus, parents' drinking habits indirectly affected adolescent alcohol use via drinking motives, in terms of both the frequency of alcohol consumption and drunkenness. In particular, social, enhancement, and coping motives were prominent mediators in the link between parental drinking and adolescent alcohol consumption, whereas coping and enhancement motives played a key role in the link between parental drinking and adolescent drunkenness.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that drinking habits of parents are not responsible for the widely reported link between the alcohol use of parents and their offspring, per se. Rather, results suggest that parental drinking shapes the drinking motives of adolescent children, which, in turn, influences adolescent alcohol use.

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