Can Facebook predict problem drinking? What study says

A German teen learned her lesson after forgetting to set her Facebook to "private" around the time she had posted a party invite to her sweet 16. As a result, 1,600 guests turned up (as well as, 100 cops) causing her to flee the scene. She had meant to invite only a handful. istockphoto

Busted! 7 things never to do on Facebook
istockphoto

(CBS) Facebook pages show a lot about people - their friends, favorite bands, and "farming" habits. But can it also tell whether they are at risk for problem drinking?

Pictures: Blood-sucking teens and 9 more dangerous teen trends

College students who post pictures and references to drunkenness are more likely to have a "clinically significant" drinking problem than students who don't post such references, according to the study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

For the study - published in the Oct. 3 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine - researchers examined public Facebook profiles of more than 300 undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Washington. The researchers contacted these students and asked them to complete a questionnaire that doctors use to measure a drinking problem.

The profiles were divided into three categories: those without alcohol references, those with references to alcohol but no mention of getting drunk, and those scattered with phrases like "being drunk" and "getting wasted." Not surprisingly, the students in the last group scored higher on the questionaire. A score of 8 or higher indicates a person is at risk for problem drinking, and these student groups had average scores of 4.6, 6.7, and 9.5 respectively.

"We found that students whose Facebook status reports and photos contain these key references to intoxication and problem drinking are four times as likely as those whose profiles do not to actually have a drinking problem," study author Dr. Megan A. Moreno, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, told HealthDay.

Approximately half of students who use alcohol report direct alcohol-related harms, and as many as 1,700 college student deaths each year are alcohol related, according to the authors.

Can anything be done to intervene and help these kids avoid alcohol problems?

The researchers said it's possible, by using Facebook - to spot the problem early and intervene.

"Our study suggests that parents and college health care providers who note references to problem drinking on the Facebook profiles of adolescents should consider discussing drinking habits with their children and patients," Moreno said in a written statement.

Should parents police their grown kids' Facebook profiles?

Popular on CBS News

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download