The Facebook pages of college students could, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, indicate which of them display symptoms of alcohol dependence and abuse.
Dr. Megan Moreno, the study's lead author and a pediatrician, said she often spoke with teenage patients and parents worried about college students they know, who post status updates on Facebook about drinking.
College is a frequent time that students will drink, and we often see references to alcohol on Facebook, Dr. Moreno said, in a report on ABC News.
Moreno and her colleagues analyzed 224 Facebook profiles of 18 to 20-year-old college students at the Universities of Wisconsin and Washington, looking for pictures, status updates and comments that referred to drinking alcohol. About two-thirds of those students had no references to alcohol or drinking on their pages. The rest of the pages either spoke about, had pictures of social, non-problematic drinking or more serious and risky alcohol use.
The researchers brought all the students in for a 10-question screening test used to determine who was at risk for problem drinking. The results suggested that nearly six out of those ten students scored above the cutoff, showing a risk for alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as other drinking-related problems.
At the same time Dr. Moreno said that Facebook posts and Twitter hashtags don't always indicate that a student has an alcohol problem. About 23 percent of the students in the study who never mentioned alcohol on Facebook were still considered at-risk, based on their responses to the clinical survey.
The study was published online on Monday in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.