A new study has shown that when the students learn that they are mistaken about the actual normal drinking habits of their peers, they tend to drink less often. This holds good even though peer pressure is known to play a vital role in alcohol misuse among college students.
The study has shown that much of that peer influence is the result of incorrect perceptions.
"In the UK, young people are drinking earlier and heavier than ever before," said co-author David Foxcroft of Oxford Brookes University, in England.
"Levels of alcohol consumption amongst 11- to 13 year-olds have almost doubled in the last 10 years or so," he added.
The researchers say if a student believes that his or her peers drink heavily, it would likely influence the amount of alcohol the student personally drinks.
During the study, they placed students into either intervention or control groups.
Those in the intervention groups received personalized feedback about actual college students' normal drinking habits, their own personal drinking profiles - quantity of alcohol consumed, calorie intake and money spent on alcohol - as well as the health risk factors involved in heavy drinking.
The interventions occurred in different ways: alone, either by mail or via the Web; or together with individual face-to-face or group counselling.
Interventions that occurred electronically reduced the students' alcohol-related problems, drinking frequency, peak blood-alcohol content and drinking quantity.
The study showed that 62 percent of the students reported a reduction in alcohol-related problems.
In addition, 65 percent of the students reported that they were drinking less frequently.
"There were only a small number of good quality studies that we could draw on to make this somewhat tentative conclusion," said Foxcroft.
"More research is definitely needed, especially in different settings. We don't know, for example, how well Web feedback would work in the UK, where the drinking context and culture is quite different," he added.