Binge drinking down among young adults in college, up among those who are not

July 27, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

After years of increasing rates of binge drinking, alcohol-impaired driving, and alcohol-related mortality among emerging adults ages 18 to 24, the numbers are finally starting to come down among college students in that age group, according to a study in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. However, those same numbers are on the rise in young adults of the same age who are not in college.

The same study found that alcohol-related overdose hospitalizations and overdose deaths have increased among 18- to 24-year-olds as a whole.

Research for this study began in 1998, when the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) convened a task force to examine problems related to and to identify possible solutions, according to study author and task force member Ralph Hingson, SC.D., M.P.H., of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research at the NIAAA.

The first report by the was published in 2002. In the current update, researchers looked at data through 2014. They found that in every year from 1999 to 2005, and its related problems increased among college students ages 18 to 24. However, those same numbers declined across the board from 2005 to 2014.

The percentage of college students who reported binge drinking (five or more drinks on an occasion at least once in the last 30 days) rose from 42 percent to 45 percent from 1999 to 2005 but then declined to 37 percent by 2014. For those not in college, binge drinking rose from 36 percent to 40 percent between 1999 and 2014.

While the rates of binge drinking have declined among college students, extreme binge drinking—drinking at two or more times the binge threshold—is a continued public health concern in the U.S. A recent study by Dr. Hingson found that tens of millions of Americans drink at dangerously high levels.

Those in college who reported driving under the influence of alcohol rose from 27 percent to 28 percent from 1999 and 2005, but this fell to 17 percent by 2014. For those not in college, driving under the influence declined from 20 percent to 16 percent between 1999 and 2014.

"A number of factors may have contributed to the recent reduction in binge drinking and its related problems among college students," says Hingson. He hypothesizes that an increased emphasis by college administrators on adopting interventions aimed at reducing problematic drinking may have played a role.

In more recent years, says Hingson, studies have shown that interventions can work on multiple levels, not only among individuals but also at the family level through educational programming at the colleges and in the community as well as through alcohol policy adoption and implementation. Studies also have shown that interventions can reduce alcohol-related problems not only for college students who drink but also for other college students—in effect reducing the secondhand effects of excessive drinking.

"This expansion of the literature may have prompted more colleges to adopt a wider array of interventions," says Hingson.

(In 2015, NIAAA released the CollegeAIM [Alcohol Intervention Matrix], a tool to help colleges and universities select evidence-based alcohol interventions for their campuses.)

Two other possible factors include the economic recession of 2008—less disposable income means less money to spend on alcohol—and the passage in every state of the .08% legal limit for in drivers by 2005.

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, increases in overdose hospitalizations and deaths involving alcohol—alone and in combination with other drugs—and the rising rates of binge drinking in non- of the same age are worrisome, says Hingson, and these are areas that he and his researchers will continue to study.

He notes that the increase in overdoses, particularly among 21- to 24-year-olds, may relate to the rise in extreme binge drinking, which was found to be particularly common among people who used other drugs, based on his previous research.

"Among who aren't in , there aren't the same organizational supports to implement interventions, and that may be contributing to why binge is increasing in that group," he says.

Explore further: How serious is binge drinking among college students with disabilities?

More information: Hingson, R., Zha, W., & Smyth D. (2017). Magnitude and trends in heavy episodic drinking, alcohol-impaired driving, and alcohol-related mortality and overdose hospitalizations among emerging adults of college ages 18-24 in the United States, 1998-2014. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78, 540-548. DOI: 10.15288/jsad.2017.78.540

Related Stories

How serious is binge drinking among college students with disabilities?

June 22, 2017
A new study finds that college students with disabilities binge drink more often than their non-disabled student peers. The study, providing the first picture of alcohol use and binge drinking by US college students with ...

Nearly 32 million Americans engage in extreme binge-drinking: study

May 17, 2017
Almost 32 million US adults admit to extreme binge-drinking at least once in the past year, meaning they consumed eight to 10 alcoholic beverages—or more—in a single sitting, US government scientists said on Wednesday.

Binge and high-intensity drinking is increasing for U.S. young adults in their late 20s

June 5, 2017
Monitoring changes in drinking patterns and amounts helps researchers, prevention professionals, and treatment providers plan for and respond effectively to personal and public harms associated with alcohol consumption. This ...

Spring break drunkeness a dangerous tradition

March 10, 2014
(HealthDay)—College students who consider heavy drinking a harmless spring break tradition might need to think again.

Youth binge drinking, cardiovascular disease possibly linked

April 26, 2017
University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are conducting a study to determine whether binge drinking is related to cardiovascular disease in young adults who are not predisposed to the condition.

Binge drinking five-plus drinks common for high school seniors, some drink more

September 16, 2013
Consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row is common among high school seniors, with some students engaging in extreme binge drinking of as many as 15 or more drinks, according to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics.

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.