Heavy Drinking Colleges Maintain their Status
A study by Nelson, Xuan, Lee, Weitzman and Wechsler examined drinking levels, related harms and the secondhand effects of alcohol use at heavy drinking colleges between 1993 and 2005. The heavy drinking colleges were designated as such in 1993.
The students whose data was examined attended 18 colleges with high levels of episodic drinking. A high level distinction was given if 50 percent or more of the students met criteria for episodic drinking. The 18 schools that were identified in the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study in 1993 were surveyed in 2005. There were 4,518 students from the 18 colleges surveyed.
The surveys were completed via mailed and Web-based questionnaires and then compared with responses from students at the same schools in 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2001. A total of 13, 254 responses were examined using time trend analyses.
The results of the study showed that overall the schools’ students reported similar drinking behavior. Levels of alcohol consumption, experience of problems and levels of secondhand effects remained high among students reporting from heavy drinking schools. More than 85 percent of the students at the heavy drinking schools drank alcohol and more than half engaged in heavy episodic drinking.
One improvement was shown between 1997 and 2005, in which students showed a decline in driving after any drinking. However, there was no similar improvement found in two other measures of drinking and driving.
Overall, the results show that those schools identified as heavy drinking schools have shown with little exception that they are in need of more strategic intervention. Schools that have a history of being a heavy drinking college should not expect behaviors to change with minor education and environment changes.
Addressing student alcohol use at heavy drinking schools will call for very comprehensive approaches to change attitudes about episodic drinking and associated secondhand effects. Administrators of alcohol education strategy must also consider the alcohol environment and how students are impacted by environmental influences when making decisions about alcohol consumption.
When choosing a school for your son or daughter, you may already know if the college has a reputation for partying. How administrators approach improvement in heavy alcohol consumption may influence your decision about whether to entrust your child to their instruction. Binge drinking has led to alcohol poisoning and even death in young people, and excessive alcohol use can undermine not only grades but physical and mental health.