Do problem drinkers self-select into fraternities and sororities?

College students affiliated with Greek letter organizations (e.g., fraternities and sororities) are more likely to drink within the past month than unaffiliated students (B = 0.73, p < 0.01), according to a recent analysis of National College Health Assessment (NCHA) data (Foster et al., 2014). The question is, do Greek letter organizations influence students to drink more, or do they simply attract members who drink more than other students? This was the question posed in a recent study by Capece et al. They analyzed survey data asking the question, ”To what extent has your alcohol use changed within the last 12 months?” The results indicated a significant difference : 47% of freshman fraternity and sorority affiliates reported increasing their alcohol use in the past 12 months, versus 19% of non-affiliates. This indicates that Greek letter organizations are an important influence on college drinking behavior. Further results reinforced this conclusion: in all 4 class-years, fraternity/sorority affiliates consumed significantly more drinks weekly than non-affiliates. From freshman to senior year, Greek affiliates also steadily increased their weekly number of drinks from 4.84 to 8.28, while non-Greeks remained steady at fewer than 3 drinks weekly.

The take-home messages? Heavy drinking and fraternity/sorority culture are connected in important ways, and efforts at U.S. colleges to reduce risky drinking behaviors should incorporate Greek letter organizations into their strategies. However, the study brought up at least one question for future research: do  fraternity/sorority members experience negative consequences, including disciplinary incidents, at a rate that is commensurate with their drinking behavior? If not, what protective factors may be at play?

Capece, M., Knowles Jr, F. E., & McIntyre Jr, R. N. (2015). From High School to College: Does Self-Selection or Participation in Greek Organizations Influence Student Drinking Behavior?. (e-pub ahead of print)


Foster, C., Caravelis, C., & Kopak, A. (2014). National College Health Assessment Measuring Negative Alcohol-Related Consequences among College Students. American Journal of Public Health Research, 2(1), 1-5.


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