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Alcohol and social connectedness for new residential university students: implications for alcohol harm reduction

Brown, Rachel ORCID: and Murphy, Simon ORCID: 2020. Alcohol and social connectedness for new residential university students: implications for alcohol harm reduction. Journal of Further and Higher Education 44 (2) , pp. 216-230. 10.1080/0309877X.2018.1527024

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Starting university is a significant life-event, commonly involving detachment from existing social networks and emotional stresses that increase risk of drop-out. The developmental need to form new peer relationships is prominent during this period and is correlated with successful adaptation. This study investigated the role of alcohol in the process of transition and peer group development for new students. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews is presented, conducted within a broader instrumental case study of campus approaches to alcohol policy and management. Twenty-three first-year students participated in interviews lasting between 45–60 minutes. Verbatim transcription was followed by within- and cross-case analysis. Drawing on social connectedness theory, we illustrate how pre-arrival concern over new peer relationships was subsequently reduced by drinking together. This reinforced participant perceptions of alcohol as beneficial for hastening development of social connections, in turn reducing anxiety and supporting successful transition. For non-/low-drinkers in the study, social connectedness without alcohol use was reported as more challenging. Alcohol was perceived as a readily-available, effective tool for hastening social connectedness, increasing student resistance to alcohol education messages provided at the start of term. Implications for addressing alcohol-related harms in students are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0309-877X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 October 2018
Date of Acceptance: 16 September 2018
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 22:36

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