Academic journal article College Student Journal

Comparison of Patterns of Alcohol Use between High School and College Athletes and Non-Athletes

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Comparison of Patterns of Alcohol Use between High School and College Athletes and Non-Athletes

Article excerpt

Alcohol abuse on college campuses is recognized nationally as a serious problem. Evidence regarding athletes' immunity to this problem is inconclusive. The purpose of this study was to compare the patterns of alcohol use and engagement in alcohol-related risk behaviors by college athletes, college students who were athletes before college, and those who were never athletes. College students enrolled at a public Southeastern university (n= 1287) completed 20-item survey designed to identify patterns of alcohol use and alcohol-related behaviors. The data were analyzed using descriptive and Chi square statistics. Results significantly indicate those in the non-athlete group abused alcohol less and engaged less frequently in alcohol-related risk behaviors than did those in the high school or college athlete groups.


Alcohol abuse on college campuses is recognized by administrators and public health officials nationwide as a serious problem. Underage drinking is widespread and has been identified as a major contributor to morbidity and mortality and social problems (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 1998; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1993). Alcohol-related tragedies account for 40% of deaths among adolescents and young adults, with automobile crashes being the strongest contributor (CDC, 1998). Alcohol abuse also contributes to unplanned sexual activity and sexual aggression, unintended pregnancies, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV (CDC, 1998; Frintner & Rubinson, 1993; Koss & Gains, 1993; Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994). Although these facts are well-known, abusive drinking occurs at a higher rate among college students than among young people not attending college (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1997).

Schools, colleges, and communities have initiated a variety of programs, including sport programs, to steer youth away from engagement in risky behaviors and have specifically targeted alcohol abuse. Sport programs for youth originally began as an alternative to such behaviors. Athletic programs at both the high school and college levels demand disciplined training. Several programs have rules of conduct for student athletes that prohibit them from drinking alcohol. Even so, research does not confirm that alcohol abuse is lower among athletes than their non-athlete peers. Although some results indicate a decrease or no significant differences in drinking patterns of college athletes and non-athletes (Koss & Gains, 1993; Overman & Terry, 1991), other findings suggest just the opposite (Leichliter, Meilman, Presley,& Cashin, 1998; Nattiv & Puffer, 1991; Selby, Weinstein & Bird, 1990). Some evidence indicates rates of alcohol abuse increase as involvement with athletics increases (Leichliter, et al. 1998; Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Grossman, & Zanakos, 1997). In one of these studies (Wechsler, et al., 1997), "involvement, in athletics was not well defined and was not limited to actually being a college athlete.

Well documented is the fact that most college students have drank alcohol before entering college (CDC, 1998, 2000). A recent finding reports alcohol abuse during the high school years to be a strong predictor of alcohol abuse in college (Weschler, Lee, Kuo, & Lee, 2000). In light of this information, along with inconclusive evidence regarding the relationship between degree of athletic involvement and abuse of alcohol, the investigation of alcohol abuse rates among college athletes and differences in the patterns of alcohol use during high school for college athletes and non-athletes is warranted.

The purpose of this study was to compare the patterns of alcohol abuse and engagement in alcohol related risk behaviors by college students and to investigate whether previous or current athletic participation was associated with those behaviors. Alcohol abuse behaviors were defined as the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption and the frequency of binge drinking during the semester preceding the survey. …

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