Status updates, tweets and posts on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace could indicate if people are suffering from alcoholism.
Researchers in the US have found there is a link between drinking-related updates and picture posts and alcohol dependency in students.
It is now hoped popular social media sites like Facebook will be used to identify and help those at risk from a drinking problem and also help to tackle the issue of underage drinking.
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The results of the research – which was carried out by a team from the University of Wisconsin and University of Washington – have been published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
According to the report’s authors, approximately 1,700 college students in America die every year as a result of alcohol and they say binge drinking is a big problem in colleges and universities in the US.
As part of the study, the researchers looked at 224 Facebook profiles of college students which were open to public viewing.
While two-thirds of students made no reference to alcohol or drinking, the remaining profiles had evidence of both non-problematic and more dangerous alcohol consumption.
The students were then asked to take part in a screening test consisting of 10 questions, which found 60 percent of those whose profiles had evidence of drinking were at risk of developing alcohol dependency.
Dr. Megan Moreno, the lead author of the study, said: “Our job is to distinguish between drinking in a relatively safe environment, when it's not really a problem, from drinking behaviours that could lead to negative outcomes.”
“College is a frequent time that students will drink and we often see references to alcohol on Facebook and we wanted to find if there is a way to separate what might be 'rite of passage' drinking from drinking that shows actual clinical risk.”
She added: “We found that students whose Facebook status reports and photos contain these key references to intoxication and problem drinking are four times as likely as those whose profiles do not to actually have a drinking problem.
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