Health and Behavioral Consequences of Binge Drinking in College A National Survey of Students at 140 Campuses Henry Wechsler, PhD; Andrea Davenport, MPH; George Dowdall, PhD; Barbara Moeykens, MS; Sonia Castillo, PhD
Objective.—To examine the extent of binge drinking by college students and the ensuing health and behavioral problems that binge drinkers create for themselves and others on their campus. Design.—Self-administered survey mailed to a national representative sample of US 4-year college students. Setting.—One hundred forty US 4-year colleges in 1993. Participants.—A total of 17,592 college students. Main Outcome Measures.—Self-reports of drinking behavior, alcohol-related health problems, and other problems. Results.—Almost half (44%) of college students responding to the survey were binge drinkers, including almost one fifth (19%) of the students who were frequent binge drinkers. Frequent binge drinkers are more likely to experience serious health and other consequences of their drinking behavior than other students. Almost half (47%) of the frequent binge drinkers experienced five or more different drinkingrelated problems, including injuries and engaging in unplanned sex, since the beginning of the school year. Most binge drinkers do not consider themselves to be problem drinkers and have not sought treatment for an alcohol problem. Binge drinkers create problems for classmates who are not binge drinkers. Students who are not binge drinkers at schools with higher binge rates were more likely than students at schools with lower binge rates to experience problems such as being pushed, hit, or assaulted or experiencing an unwanted sexual advance. Conclusions.—Binge drinking is widespread on college campuses. Programs aimed at reducing this problem should focus on frequent binge drinkers, refer them
Reprinted from JAMA ® The Journal of the American Medical Association. December 7, 1994 Volume 272. Copyright 1994, American Medical Association.
190 Adventures in Criminal Justice Research to treatment or educational programs, and emphasize the harm they cause for students who are not binge drinkers. — (JAMA. 1994;272:1672-1677)
Heavy episodic or binge drinking poses a danger of serious health and other consequences for alcohol abusers and for others in the immediate environment. Alcohol contributes to the leading causes of accidental death in the United States, such as motor vehicle crashes and falls.1 Alcohol abuse is seen as contributing to almost half of motor vehicle fatalities, the most important cause of death among young Americans.2 Unsafe sex—a growing threat with the spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases— and unintentional injuries have been associated with alcohol intoxication.3-5 These findings support the view of college presidents who believe that alcohol abuse is the No. 1 problem on campus.6 Despite the fact that alcohol is illegal for most undergraduates, alcohol continues to be widely used on most college campuses today. Since the national study by Straus and Bacon in 1949,7 numerous subsequent surveys have documented the overwhelming use of alcohol by college students and have pointed to problem drinking among this group.8-10 Most previous studies of drinking by college students have been conducted on single college campuses and have not used random sampling of students.9-12 While these studies are in general agreement about the prevalence and consequences of binge drinking, they do not provide a national representative sample of college drinking. A few large-scale, multicollege surveys have been conducted in recent years. However, these have not selected a representative national sample of colleges, but have used colleges in one state3 or those participating in a federal program,5 or have followed a sample of high school seniors through college.13 In general, studies of college alcohol use...