The rabbit hole before Wonderland: The nature of university students’ alcohol use during the transition to university.
For new students, university is a wonderland of opportunity. But the first few weeks of the university experience are typified by change, stress, and uncertainty. From a health promotion perspective, the first few weeks of the university experience present important yet understudied opportunities for alcohol misuse prevention. In this thesis I aim to provide evidence to suggest that the transition to university is a high risk period for alcohol use and to design and trial an intervention for this period. I begin with a narrative review to distinguish students’ alcohol use during their first year at university from what is known about their use in the first few weeks on campus. I begin by outlining the descriptive epidemiology of alcohol use and consequences during the first year of university before highlighting how distinctly different the first few weeks of the university experience are relative to the rest of the academic year and overviewing the limited research on alcohol use and consequences during the first few weeks of university. This narrative review informed three priority areas that I subsequently addressed in five empirical studies in this thesis: (a) the impact of alcohol use during Orientation Week on subsequent alcohol use among university students (Studies 1 and 2), (b) more event-level focus on Orientation Week and exploration of risky drinking practices such as “pre-gaming” before Orientation Week events (Study 3), and (c) the need for interventions that to reduce alcohol use during orientation periods (Studies 4 and 5). These five studies incorporated a range of designs (correlational, field experiments), methodologies (qualitative and quantitative), and assessment technologies (daily diaries, mobile phone text-messaging, and breathalysers). Collectively, these five studies suggested that Orientation Week is a significant period of alcohol use but that interventions that focus on Orientation Week drinking may be especially effective. This thesis has resulted in better understanding of the nature and determinants of alcohol use and consequences during the transition to university which may inform university policy and suggest prevention strategies to prevent risky alcohol use at university.
Advisor: Scarf, Damian; Conner, Tamlin
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Orientation Week; alcohol use; alcohol-related consequences; young adults; emerging adulthood; Ecological Momentary Intervention; event-specific alcohol use
Research Type: Thesis