Authors: Kristen Hunt, Sharyn Burns
Social connectedness has been identified as a protective factor for a range of health issues however the literature is not conclusive. The high prevalence of hazardous alcohol consumption and mental health problems among university students along with the potential for the university as a setting for health promotion prompted this study. The study aims to explore the association between levels of alcohol consumption, mental health, social connectedness and social identity among university students. Online data were collected from a random sample of university undergraduate students (n = 2506) aged 18 – 24 years old. Outcomes were measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, Social Connectedness Scale, Social Identity Scale and measures of paid employment and study (hours), and participation in sports and other clubs. The majority of students had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months (87%). Of these students 38% reported to drink at hazardous levels (AUDIT ≥ 8). When all factors were considered: gender, living arrangements, being a domestic student, hours spent at work, participation in university and community sport, higher levels of psychological distress, higher levels of social connectedness, and lower levels of social identity were significant predictors of hazardous alcohol consumption. The finding highlights the need for the inclusion of integrated, multi-strategy health promotion interventions on campus. Further exploration of the associations between social connectedness and social identity as influences of health behaviors will better inform the development of targeted strategies for specific groups.
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