Is There a Link Between Alcohol Use and Internet Use in College Students?

College students have high rates of internet use. This generation has access to multiple forms of instant communication, through Skype, Twitter, and Facebook and uses the internet for nearly all of their entertainment. Music is downloaded and listened to through internet sites, and videos and television programs are available at any time of the day or night. These factors lead to internet overuse and even addiction for many individuals. College students are among the most vulnerable for this type of behavior. Additionally, college students tend to engage in irresponsible alcohol consumption, which can lead to impulsive and uninhibited actions. Wendy L. Wolfe of the Department of Psychology at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia was curious to find out how alcohol influenced internet use in college students in America.

Although prior research conducted in other countries has demonstrated a link between alcohol use and internet use, this study is the first to examine this link in the United States. The existing research also shows a relationship between depression and internet misuse, but this has not been substantiated in an American sample. For her study, Wolfe interviewed 297 American college students and questioned them about their internet use. Using two forms she developed, the Internet Activities Questionnaire (IAQ) and the Alcohol and Internet Activities Questionnaire (AIAQ), Wolfe analyzed where the students were most likely to access the internet, how often they used the internet for pleasure versus academics, and how often they consumed alcohol while online. She also used another tool she developed, the Internet Consequences Questionnaire (ICQ), to assess what repercussions the students suffered from internet misuse.

Wolfe discovered that more than half of the participants drank while online, mostly when they were engaged in entertainment activities. These participants reported that they often neglected other things because of the amount of time they spent on the internet. One third of the students reported having done something online (posting or messaging) while drinking that they regretted later. Many said that spending too much money online while under the influence was another problem. Although both males and females admitted drinking while online, the only direct link between alcohol misuse and possible internet misuse/addiction was found in the female students. Wolfe added, “As internet activity becomes increasingly integrated in our lives, it is important to understand how other behaviors, such as drinking, are manifested in, alter, or are altered by our online existence.”

Wolfe, W. L. (2012). Online drinking: An exploratory study of alcohol use and intoxication during internet activity. North American Journal of Psychology 14.1, 61-76. Print.

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  • Michelle


    April 3rd, 2012 at 4:13 AM

    So now instead of drunk dialing, college kids are drunk web surfing? Could be worse I suppose.

  • GINA


    April 3rd, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    Haven’t we all me those people who can’t go thru the day without checking or updating their facebook page dozens of times, or checking email or just looking online at something. For some it becomes quite the obsession that keeps them from living their daily lives normally. It interferes with just about everything that they do, and keeps them from becoming their very best self. I would hate to think that the computer was doing that to me.

  • catherine


    April 3rd, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    so now instead of food and television there is the internet and alcohol.improvements as generations pass by, great! *sarcasm*

  • Jonathan


    April 3rd, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Drinking has always been a problem for college kids, we all know that much is true. But I fail to see how being online while drinking is dangerous. I mean, they could be out partying and driving and getting in all sorts of trouble. They may be avoiding their work, but if it wasn’t online it would be by doing other stuff, so maybe the problem is not the going online, but ultimately it all boils down to the drinking.

  • Jon Paul

    Jon Paul

    April 4th, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    What a profoundly silly article.

    There is “a link” (correlation) between just about any number of discrete varables. There is a link between drinking milk and serial killers. That does not mean that drinking milk causes homicide.

    On top of that, “self-report” measures are notoriously unreliable.

    Someone needs to take a basic statistics course and stop wasting our taxes “studying” this “link.” Reminds me of one of the winners of Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award from some years back…”reseraching” why so many convicts want to escape from prison.

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