College binge drinking on the rise, according to national study


A new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that the level of binge drinking among college students increased in recent years, especially among female students.

The report, overseen by the National Institute of Health, defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more for women. The NIAAA findings assert that binge drinking is one the rise for 18 to 22-year-old college students in the last two years, despite the relative stability of regular alcohol consumption among this age group.

In 2005, 44.8 percent of full-time undergraduate students ages 18 to 22 reported being binge drinkers. The report also notes that the number of non-binge drinkers decreased significantly, but frequent binge drinkers are more common now than before.

In addition, one study mentioned by the report found that binge drinkers consumed about 91 percent of all alcohol consumed by college students. A follow-up study reported that frequent binge drinkers, which make up roughly one in five college students, consume about 65 percent of all alcohol consumed by college drinkers.

The percentage of binge drinking 18 to 22-year-olds steadily decreased from 1980 to 2011, which is often thought to be a result of the states raising the drinking age to 21. However, full-time college students have consistently reported binge drinking in the last month 10 to 15 percent more often than non-students of the same age group from 1980 to 2011.

Risky behaviors like blacking out, damaging property, getting injured, having unprotected sex and drunk driving are associated more with binge drinking than regular drinking, making reports like this important for universities.

The gap in overall alcohol consumption between collegiate men and women also decreased significantly in the past six decades as a result of more women consuming larger amounts of alcohol.

In an 1953 study, 80 percent of males reported having been drunk in the two weeks while only 49 percent of females reported the same. A 2011 study reported that 68 percent of males and 68 percent of females said they got drunk in the same time period.

The report attributed the increase in women’s alcohol consumption to the “youth drinking culture.”

Terrance Harris, Stetson’s assistant director of Wellness and Recreation, said that Stetson’s percentages of binge drinkers is lower than the national average.

Stetson uses the National College Health Assessment to measure drinking and health behaviors. The 2013 data showed that most Stetson students actually overestimated their peers’ drinking habits. Eighty-three percent of Stetson students believed other students on campus had three or more drinks the last time they partied or socialized, which is significantly more than the percentage who responded that they did.

“The reality is that 59 percent of Stetson students had two or less drinks the last time they partied or socialized, with the average student having three drinks,” Harris said.

The percentage of Stetson students who reported that their drinking affected their academics in some way was also significantly lower than the national average, which the NIAAA report listed as 25 percent.

 “When it comes to academic performance and the influence of alcohol, four percent of Stetson students reported alcohol affected their academic performance within the past 12 months,” Harris said.

It is important to note that only 19 percent of Stetson undergraduates took the NCHA survey in 2013, which may have skewed the results. For example, about 30 percent of 2013 NCHA respondents consistently reported that they did not drink alcohol, which were not controlled in the final percentage totals.

The NIAAA relies on data taken from nearly 120,000 students over an eight-year period that follows students from eighth grade to senior year of college. Most of the other surveys mentioned in the report controlled for non-drinker respondents.

Additional reporting provided by Eleanor Roy, Editor-in-Chief