Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Binge Drinking Tied To Conditions In The College Environment

Date:
July 14, 2008
Source:
Harvard School of Public Health
Summary:
Heavy alcohol use, or binge drinking, among college students in the United States is tied to conditions in the college environment. The review of a landmark 14-year study cites factors such as easy access to alcohol, low prices and special promotions, weak control policies and lax enforcement.

Heavy alcohol use, or binge drinking, among college students in the United States is tied to conditions in the college environment. That is one of the key findings from research conducted by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), a landmark study that surveyed more than 50,000 students at 120 colleges from 1993 to 2001.

In a new review that examines the findings from the CAS and their implications, the researchers conclude that heavy drinking behavior of students was more common in college environments that have a strong drinking culture, few alcohol control policies on campus or in the surrounding community, weak enforcement of existing policies, and alcohol made easily accessible through low prices, heavy marketing and special promotions.

The review was conducted by CAS Director Henry Wechsler, lecturer on society, human development and health at Harvard School of Public Health and Assistant Director Toben Nelson, assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota.

During its 14-year existence, the CAS focused attention on widespread binge drinking at American colleges and the ensuing serious health and social consequences to drinkers, fellow students and neighbors. "Our study drew attention to the heavy drinking of students, most of whom were not considered alcoholics or in need of traditional treatment, but nevertheless experienced problems as a result of their drinking," said Wechsler.

Students who binge drink--defined by the CAS as five or more drinks in a row for males, and four or more drinks for females, on a single occasion in the past two weeks--are more likely to experience a wide range of problems, including academic difficulties, social conflict, risky sexual behavior, risky driving behavior, vandalism, injury and alcohol overdose. Binge drinkers were also more likely to engage in other risk behaviors such as tobacco and illicit drug use. Students who binge drink frequently were most likely to experience these problems.

In addition to the harms drinkers cause for themselves, CAS research drew attention to the problems that drinkers cause for others on and around campus. The "secondhand" effects of alcohol use, similar to the concept of secondhand smoke, helped people understand that student drinking is harmful to the larger campus community. These problems include drinking-related behavior that is disruptive to studying and sleep, vandalism, and physical and sexual assaults.

"The five/four drink binge measure is a good indicator of who will experience alcohol-related problems, and more importantly, captures most students who actually experience problems, something measures with higher drink thresholds fail to do," said Wechsler. Binge drinkers account for the vast majority of unintentional injuries, vandalism and disorderly behavior on campus due to alcohol, the researchers found.

CAS research focused on the contribution of the college environment to student drinking behavior. "Binge drinking among college students varies widely from college to college," said Nelson. "At some colleges almost no students binge drink, while at others nearly four in every five students do. Interestingly, we found that the levels of binge drinking, and the problems related to it, remain very stable at the same colleges over time." This finding occurred despite surveying a new group of students in each of the CAS surveys. "That suggests there is something about certain college environments that promote binge drinking," added Nelson.

While some students chose to enroll in a college because it has a party reputation, CAS research found that campuses that emphasize intercollegiate athletics and fraternity and sorority life have higher levels of binge drinking. Students who lived off-campus with friends or in other unsupervised settings were also more likely to binge drink.

On the other hand, colleges that restricted use by banning alcohol on campus or offering substance-free housing options had fewer drinkers, and as a result lower binge drinking levels. State and local government can also play a role. Students who attended colleges in states with stronger alcohol control policies were less likely to be binge drinkers.

The ease with which students can access alcohol is another important factor. "A 'wet' college environment, one that has many stores where students can buy alcohol, and may be influenced to do so by heavy marketing, low prices and special promotions, creates the conditions for heavy drinking," said Wechsler. "If colleges can change those conditions, they can reduce binge drinking among their students."

The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study was funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Henry Wechsler, Toben F. Nelson. What We Have Learned From the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study: Focusing Attention on College Student Alcohol Consumption and the Environmental Conditions That Promote It. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 69(4):481-490, 2008

Cite This Page:

Harvard School of Public Health. "Binge Drinking Tied To Conditions In The College Environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711141755.htm>.
Harvard School of Public Health. (2008, July 14). Binge Drinking Tied To Conditions In The College Environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711141755.htm
Harvard School of Public Health. "Binge Drinking Tied To Conditions In The College Environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080711141755.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins