Long past are the days when same-gender housing was the norm on all college campuses, with curfews or restrictions for having members of the opposite sex on the same floor. Today’s college dormitories offer many multi-gender residence halls, but research suggests that students living in these halls may participate in binge drinking more than twice as often as students living in same-gender residence halls.
Research published in the Journal of American College Health may encourage more college campuses to contemplate the effects of their housing offerings as they pursue new measures to curb college drinking. The study, including survey results from more than 500 college students from five different colleges, asked students about their drinking habits, and their sexual behaviors. Nearly all the students (87 percent) were residing in co-gender residential halls.
In surprising figures, more than 40 percent of the students living in mixed gender dormitories said they had engaged in binge drinking activity every week, as compared to students living in non co-ed residential halls, who reported binge drinking on a weekly level of 17.6 percent. These findings give further evidence to previous reports, including a long-term study from the Harvard School of Public Health, that say more than 40 percent of U.S. college students participate in regular binge drinking episodes.
Brian Willoughby, faculty at Utah’s Brigham Young University and one of the study’s authors, says the research related to binge drinking and type of dormitory was surprising and should encourage more research into the area. The study considered other factors, like the students’ age, religious characteristics and whether or not they were involved in an intimate relationship.
Additionally, students living in the male/female residential halls said they had engaged in sex with more than one partner during the past twelve months, and had used more pornographic materials, than had students in same-gender living halls. Around 90 percent of U.S. college living halls are co-ed.
Critics of the study say that while the research doesn’t show proof that a connection exists between co-gender college living and higher episodes of binge drinking or other dangerous activities, it may suggest that students who make the decision to live in a co-ed residential hall could have a higher likelihood of getting involved in risky behaviors than students who choose same-gender living.
Study authors say that all factors being considered, students who choose co-ed living may show higher tendencies overall for behaviors that involve higher levels of risk. They also say that many campuses place students in male/female residential living options, while giving the students an opportunity to change that assignment if they desire. Few, say study authors, make the choice to transfer to same-gender living facilities.
As colleges strive toward preventing binge drinking and abuse of alcohol, studies like this may encourage a broader look at the range of factors that contribute to the widespread problem of alcohol on campuses.