Protective Factors and College Student Drinking Patterns in Pre and Post Katrina New Orleans

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Rates of heavy drinking, tobacco use and illicit substance use peak among college students between 18 and 25 years of age. Attitudes, personal characteristics, and behaviors that are called protective factors could play a role in reducing college students’ use of alcohol and drugs. We studied the relationships between selected protective factors and alcohol consumption in college students from a public commuter university in New Orleans, Louisiana pre and post Hurricane Katrina utilizing the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey (CADS) Long Form. We applied Hirschi’s social control theory to examine the relationships between drinking and the identified protective factors. Three research questions with null and alternative hypotheses were tested to explore the impact of Hurricane Katrina on protective factors and drinking utilizing linear/ logistic and multivariate regression models to test the hypotheses. We found that post-Katrina students were on average about 1.5 years older and drank approximately 1.5 more drinks per week than pre-Katrina students. Both pre and post Katrina age, gender, and race/ethnicity were significantly related to drinking among these groups of college students such that older students, women, and non-Whites tended to have reduced odds of drinking. There were no statistically significant relationships between individual protective factors or any group of protective factors and drinking after controlling for age, gender, and race/ethnicity indicating that these 3 individual characteristics that cannot be altered were stronger predictors of drinking than any other factors we tested.