While their parents have been imbibing for years, many kids who are going off to college will drink alcohol for the first time and some of them will even die from binge drinking. Why does this happen so much more in the US than it does in Europe? Because kids start drinking EARLIER there.

In the US, the drink of choice for students is usually beer, but in Italy, it’s wine. A new study shows Italian youths whose parents allowed them to have alcohol with meals while they were growing up are less likely to develop harmful drinking patterns in the future.

Researcher Lee Strunin and his team studied the drinking patterns and histories of 160 Italian adolescents and young adults who identified themselves as regular or heavy drinkers. The authors concluded that the introduction of a moderate amount of alcohol in a family setting could prevent young people from binge drinking and nurture healthier drinking behaviors.

Strunin says, “Young people allowed alcohol with meals when growing up were more likely to never drink 5 [or more drinks] or get drunk. If they did drink more heavily, it was typically at a “later age than participants who weren’t allowed alcohol in a family setting. Youths in [European] cultures learn to drink more responsibly than their US counterparts because drinking is culturally normative, exposure occurs at a younger age, and alcohol is part of the fabric of family mores.”

At least college students are less likely to let their female friends engage in risky sexual behavior after a night of drinking alcohol. Three quarters of the participants in a new study reported that they would not take risks when it comes to making sure a female friend is safe while under the influence of alcohol. Participants said they would persuade a female friend not to go home with a new male acquaintance or that they would make sure she got home safely. Researcher Linda C. Lederman says, “Our research suggests that the claim that college students routinely engage in risky sexual behavior while intoxicated may be exaggerated.”

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