A University of Minnesota researcher says students living in co-ed dorms are much more likely to engange in risky sexual contact and drinking than those who live in single-sex dorms.
Brian Willoughby surveyed 500 students at five U.S. universities, and found that students living in co-ed housing were nearly three times as likely to binge drink.
He also found they were nearly three times as likely to have had three or more sex partners per year.
"A lot of people would say it makes a lot of sense that students in co-ed dorms in particular would be having more sexual partners," said Willoughby. "But at the same time, I do think the differences we're seeing in alcohol and binge drinking speaks to some differing social norms in those types of environments."
Willoughby said the differences don't seem to be self-selecting, that is it isn't that kids who drink more are more likely to choose co-ed housing.
Willoughby said 90 percent of college students now live in buildings with students of the opposite sex.
"The study raises questions. It suggests that there's something about the housing environment of college students that's a contributing factor to some of the risk-taking behaviors that we as a public and college administrators are concerned about," he said.
Willoughby said he isn't allowed to identify the schools involved in his research, but two of them were large Midwestern institutions.
The study is published in the Journal of American College Health. Willoughby wrote the study while a Ph.D. candidate at the U of M, but is now a visting professor at Brigham Young University.