Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Magnitude and Prevention of College Drinking and Related Problems

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Magnitude and Prevention of College Drinking and Related Problems

Article excerpt

Magnitude and Prevention of College Drinking and Related Problems

NIAAA published a landmark report on college drinking in 2002, with a follow-up report in 2007 (NIAAA, Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 2002; NIAAA 2007). This review updates these reports. It examines (1) trends from 1998 to 2005 in the magnitude of morbidity and mortality associated with college drinking among 18- to 24-year-old students (earlier reports examined data from 1998 through 2001) and (2) interventions established through scientific research to reduce alcohol misuse among college students.

Heavy Episodic Drinking and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

National surveys indicate that from 1999 to 2005 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2000, 2002, 2006) the percentage of 18- to 24-year-old college students who drank five or more drinks on an occasion in the previous 30 days increased from 41.7 percent to 45.2 percent, a significant 8 percent proportional increase. Among 18- to 24-year-olds not in college, the percentage increased from 36.5 percent to 40.2 percent, a significant proportional 10 percent increase.

A greater percentage of 18- to 24-year-old college students compared with noncollege respondents drank five or more drinks on an occasion. However, because only one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds are in college, the number not in college who consumed five or more drinks on an occasion in 2005 exceeded the number of college students who did so (7,884,398 vs. 4,351,887). From 1999 to 2005, among 18- to 24-year-olds, the proportion of college students who drove under the influence of alcohol increased significantly from 26.1 percent to 29.2 percent. Among those in the same age-group who are not in college, the proportion also increased significantly from 19.8 percent to 22.8 percent.


Of note, the increases from 1999 to 2005 in binge drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol occurred among respondents aged 21-24, not those ages 18-20. In each year examined, a greater percentage of 21- to 24-year-olds than 18- to 20-year-olds engaged in these behaviors. Among both 21- to 24-year olds and 18- to 20-year olds, college students were more likely than same-age respondents not enrolled in college to report these behaviors (Hingson and Zha 2009).

Total Alcohol-Related Unintentional Injury Deaths

Among 18- to 24-year-old college students, deaths from all alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including traffic and other unintentional injuries, increased from 1,442 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005, corresponding to increases in rates of death from 18.5 to 19.0, a 3 percent increase per 100,000 college students that approached, but did not reach, statistical significance (relative risk 1.03 [95 percent CI 0.96-1.1]) (Hingson and Zha 2009). Among all 18- to 24-year-olds, alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths increased from 4,809 in 1998 to 5,534 in 2005. Most of the injury deaths resulted from traffic crashes involving alcohol (1,357 among college students ages 18-24 and 4,114 among all individuals in that age-group) in 2005.

NIAAA reports have documented that heavy-drinking college students not only place their own health at risk, they jeopardize the well-being of others. As many as 46 percent of the 4,553 people killed in 2005 in crashes involving 18- to 24-year-old drinking drivers were people other than the drinking driver. Further, a national survey in 2001 indicated that over 690,000 college students that year Nationwide were hit or assaulted by a drinking college student, and 97,000 students were the victim of a date rape or assault perpetrated by a drinking college student (Hingson and Zha 2009).

Interventions to Reduce College Drinking

The increase in the past 7 years in alcohol-related traffic and other unintentional injury deaths among 18- to 24-year-olds, both in college and not in college, underscores the need for colleges and their surrounding communities to expand and strengthen interventions demonstrated to reduce excessive drinking among college students and those in the same age-group who do not attend college. …

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