Harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the U.S.
Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience. Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem.
According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe.
College: Prevalence of Alcohol Use
- Prevalence of Drinking: According to the 2015 NSDUH, 58.0 percent of full-time college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month compared with 48.2 percent of other persons of the same age.1
- Prevalence of Binge Drinking: According to the 2015 NSDUH, 37.9 percent of college students ages 18–22 reported binge drinking in the past month compared with 32.6 percent of other persons of the same age.1
- Prevalence of Heavy Drinking: According to the 2015 NSDUH, 12.5 percent of college students ages 18–22 reported heavy alcohol use in the past month compared with 8.5 percent of other persons of the same age.1
College: Consequences of Alcohol Use
Researchers estimate that each year:
- 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes.2
- 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.3
- 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.4
- Roughly 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an AUD.5
- About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.6
TABC PSA Case Study: Jennifer: “What Really Happened”
College students have been drinking alcohol for years, so when Jennifer’s parents decide to let her have a pool party with a little alcohol they figured – what could go wrong.
It was her 18th birthday, she was getting ready to start college and her older, responsible brother was going to be home. So they mix up a batch of “weak” margaritas, and remind her to be responsible before leaving.
A few posts on social media later and Jennifer is ready to celebrate with her best friend Cindy. A few more bottles of alcohol provided by her brother arrive along with a few more people than planned thanks to the numerous posts – it one of the first parties of summer vacation after all. Jennifer and her friends start celebrating and it does not take long for things to spiral out of control.
Jennifer and her family are left to face the realization that they are now responsible for damage caused when alcohol is provided to minors – “What Really Happened” impacts the community, friendships and everyone’s planned carefree summer.
- Visit NIAAA’s site CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov – Resource for comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students.
- Read NIAAA’s fact sheet: College Drinking
- Read NIAAA’s fact sheet: Fall Semester—Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking
- 1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 6.84B—Tobacco Product and Alcohol Use in Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 22, by College Enrollment Status: Percentages, 2014 and 2015. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.htm#tab6-84b. Accessed 1/18/17.
- 2 Hingson, R.W.; Zha, W.; and Weitzman, E.R. Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24, 1998–2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (Suppl. 16):12–20, 2009. PMID: 19538908 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701090/
- 3 Hingson R, Heeren T, Winter M. et al. Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24: changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health 26: 259–279, 2005. PMID: 15760289 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15760289
- 4 Ibid.
- 5 Blanco, C.; Okuda, M.; Wright, C. et al. Mental health of college students and their non-college- attending peers: Results from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry 65(12):1429–1437, 2008. PMID: 19047530 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2734947/
- 6 Wechsler, H.; Dowdall, G.W.; Maenner, G.; et al. Changes in binge drinking and related problems among American college students between 1993 and 1997: Results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health 47(2):57–68, 1998. PMID: 9782661 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/07448489809595621