Study shows co-ed dorms correlated with increased drinking

Co-ed dorms account for 90 percent of U.S. college housing.

by Anissa Stocks

Students living in co-ed dorms are nearly three times more likely to binge drink and engage in risky sexual behavior, according to a study by a University of Minnesota graduate. Brian Willoughby, who wrote the study while he was a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, surveyed 500 students at five large universities in the United States. Willoughby would not say whether the University of Minnesota was one of the schools surveyed. The study, published earlier this month in the Journal of American College Health, shows that 18 percent of students living in single-sex housing reported binge drinking at least once a week, compared to 42 percent of students living in co-ed housing. In the study, binge drinking was defined as having more than four to five drinks in one night, on a weekly basis. âÄúFor me, most interesting wasnâÄôt the sexual behaviors; I think we kind of expected that,âÄù Willoughby said. âÄúThere didnâÄôt seem to be a common sense explanation as to why men and women in the same buildings would bring higher rates of binge drinking.âÄù Willoughby said the unique social atmosphere of co-ed dorms, which account for 90 percent of American college housing, are the major driver in risky behaviors. âÄúStudents who are living in a co-ed environment perceive different norms around them,âÄù he said. âÄúTheyâÄôre more likely to anticipate heavy drinking going on around them [and] theyâÄôre more likely to participate in that themselves.âÄù Susan Stubblefield, assistant director for residential life, said there has been an increase in the number of co-ed dorms across the country in recent years. âÄúCo-ed housing is very common now,âÄù she said. âÄúTwenty years ago it was more of a rarity.âÄù University dorms follow state laws on underage alcohol consumption. Stubblefield said that doesnâÄôt stop underage students from drinking in residential housing. However, she said there arenâÄôt currently plans to change the UniversityâÄôs approach to curbing drinking in residence halls. Willoughby, who is now a visiting professor at Brigham Young University, said most students placed in co-ed housing didnâÄôt specifically request to be in co-ed housing. At colleges like the University of Minnesota, students living in dorms do not have a single-sex alternative. Luke Lubansky, a University first-year living in Territorial Hall, said the pressures of college life increase many studentsâÄô drinking rates. âÄúFor a lot of kids, drinking is a way to relax and have a little fun,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt think that where you live has a lot to do with how much you drink.âÄù First-year Kyle Schroeder said drinking in the dorms should be safer than at parties, but strict dorm rules make drinking at parties more accessible for students. âÄúYouâÄôd think it would be the other way around and it would be safer to drink in a dorm than at a party,âÄù he said. The students said their drinking habits vary week to week. âÄúThe first year [of college] is about meeting people âĦ living in a co-ed dorm helps,âÄù Lubansky said.