Impact of Exchange Stay on Alcohol Consumption: Longitudinal Exploration in a Large Sample of European Students
Each year, more than 300,000 university students take part in European exchange programs. Besides their positive educational and cultural impacts, these programs are also reputed to immerse students in a high‐risk festive context where heavy alcohol consumption is strongly present.
There is thus a crucial need to evaluate the actual impact of those exchange stays on alcohol consumption.
Study abroad (n = 3,950) and local (n = 3,950) European students completed a 2‐part longitudinal survey and reported their alcohol consumption before (T1) and during (T2) their exchange stay (or at the beginning of the academic year and 6 months later for local students, constituting the control group).
During their exchange stay, individuals studying abroad showed more heavy and hazardous alcohol consumption behaviors than local students, as measured by increased general alcohol consumption and binge alcohol use scores at T2.
In particular, study abroad students under 20 years of age and performing their exchange stay in eastern Europe were the most exposed to heavy alcohol consumption and binge alcohol use.
These results constitute the first large‐scale longitudinal confirmation that exchange stays indeed constitute high-risk contexts in which students significantly increase their consumption and present stronger alcohol‐related problems.
In view of the rapid and deleterious effects of alcohol consumption in young people, it is essential to promote prevention campaigns targeting this population to limit public health consequences and possible evolution toward severe alcohol use disorders.