Simulation of Heavy Episodic Drinking

The Problem In collaboration with public health professionals at LSU’s Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, we have developed a dynamical systems model of college populations, structured by drinking style and age.

The Solution The pervasive and dangerous problem of college drinking has led a group of college and university officials to call for a re-examination of the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) in the U.S. Using survey responses from the Social Norms Marketing Research Project, we were able to ground the model to data, and we have used it to examine the relative importance of increasing availability (through reducing the MLDA) and decreasing misperception (through interaction with responsible role models).

The Outcome Our tentative conclusions, that this policy is likely to lead to more irresponsible drinking, is having an impact in the debate over the MLDA. Our presentation was very well received at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism.