College Consumption Habits

Table of Contents

It’s estimated that 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries each year.  That’s a startling number, yet another 696,000 students will be physically assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 students will report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

To better understand the impact of alcohol on college life, we surveyed over 1,400 students about their drinking habits and the true cost of the phrase, “just one more drink.” Read on to see what we discovered.

 Under the Influence

Almost 90 percent of the students we polled told us that they have consumed alcohol. Considering that alcohol is ingrained in college culture – tailgating, beer pong, frat parties, pub crawls – it shouldn’t be a surprise that nearly all college students have at least one drink during their academic careers.

Unfortunately, almost half of the college students who drink also binge drink. Consuming alcohol to the point of intoxication is dangerous and can lead to serious consequences. For example, over 60 percent of those surveyed confessed they have engaged in sexual activity while under the influence of alcohol. According to experts, this type of impaired decision making, by one or both parties, has contributed to an epidemic of sexual assault cases in universities across the country.

These aren’t the only dangerous decisions made by college students while intoxicated. Almost 27 percent told us that they had driven drunk, and nearly 42 percent told us they had been a passenger in a vehicle operated by a drunk driver. Sadly, stories like this one from Endicott College in Massachusetts (involving a college student and the death of his childhood friend) have become all too common among college students.

Wrong Type of Rushing

Joining a Greek fraternity or sorority can be an honorable rite of passage into a rich tradition of philanthropy and high academic standards; however, today’s Greek organizations also prove to have higher rates of alcohol consumption compared to non-Greek students.

In fact, students involved in Greek life were 6 percent more likely to drink. While that may not seem like much, they were almost 20 percent more likely to miss class due to hangovers and 14 percent more likely to blackout after drinking. On average, they drank more often and in higher volume. They were also twice as likely to know a peer who died due to alcohol poisoning or an alcohol-related death.

These staggering numbers represent a systemic culture of alcohol abuse among fraternities and sororities. Studies have even shown that because drinking is so ingrained into regular activities, alcohol interventions are largely ineffective among members of Greek organizations. Recently, when the College of Charleston in South Carolina found itself on The Princeton Review’s list of “Top Party Schools,” the school’s first act was to suspend all Greek alcohol-related activities across its campus.

Drinking Habits, by Gender

Similar to changes in the Greek culture which now witnesses heavier drinking than previous generations, our survey results also indicate a shift in gendered norms surrounding alcohol consumption. Of the students we polled, women were slightly more likely to drink than men; however, the habits associated with drinking between the two sexes differ.

Men indicated they drank more often and were more likely to make dangerous or reckless decisions while under the influence such as driving or injuring themselves. Women on the other hand were slightly (just 1%) more likely to engage in sexual activity while drunk.

This may represent an exceptionally small margin; however, the high percentage of male and female students engaging in sexual activity while drunk (over 60% for both sexes) represents one of the most dangerous aspects of excessive drinking among college students. Rape is considered to be the most under-reported crime in the U.S.; one out of five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, and alcohol has been identified as a catalyst in many of these cases. Research shows that alcohol is now the most prevalent date-rape “drug” used today. In an effort to combat this growing concern, colleges have begun defining what sexual consent looks like for their students, regardless of alcohol consumption, and enacting statewide mandatory sentences for those who commit these crimes.

Unfortunately, these efforts fail to address the long-term mental and emotional trauma caused by alcohol-induced sexual assault that thousands of college students face each year.

Senior Slump

Our survey indicates that the first year and the final year of college are the most alcohol-ridden years. Even though students told us they were more likely to drink during their senior year of college, it was freshmen who admitted falling victim to some of the more perilous habits of alcohol consumption.

Many freshmen who enter college directly after high school are under the age of 21. While they are not yet of legal age to purchase or consume alcohol, they may find themselves in the position where “fitting in” means consuming alcohol. Peer pressure can be a significant factor in decision-making for new college freshmen, leading them to make riskier choices and engage in more harmful behavior. The freshman we polled told us they were more likely to drive or ride with someone who was drunk, engage in sexual activity while under the influence, and throw up after drinking.

Seniors were more likely to socialize their consumption habits by playing drinking games and admitted to drinking more during daytime hours and weekdays. While the newness of drinking for freshmen can be dangerous, the normalization of drinking for seniors can lead to binge behavior and, ultimately, addiction.

A Regional Look at Drinking in College

The Midwest had the largest percentage of participants who told us they drank in college – over 92 percent. The Midwest also has the highest concentration of binge drinkers in the U.S.. Research has shown that alcoholism has certain genetic properties; while genetics aren’t exclusively responsible for one’s drinking habits, the environmental elements of growing up in a household where drinking is also prevalent can be a contributing factor.

The Midwest may also attribute its drinking habits to its severely cold winters. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been found to have a negative emotional impact on college students and can be responsible for causing depression which can lead to excessive drinking.

Students in the South and Northeast also reported higher percentages of drinking, while those on the West Coast responded with the lowest.

Fatal Consequences

Our survey results also indicate regional trends in alcohol-related hospitalizations and deaths. While the midwest has the highest rates of drinking and binge drinking, other regions suffered higher rates of death and hospitalizations due to alcohol. Binge drinking is common among college students and can be a primary cause of alcohol poisoning. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include confusion, vomiting, seizures, and ultimately, death. In the U.S., six people die every day from alcohol poisoning.

Over half of the students from schools in the Northeast told us that that they knew someone who had been hospitalized from drinking too much. At almost 54 percent, that represents the highest percentage of any region in the country. The West represented the lowest population of students whose peers had been hospitalized – still, almost 38 percent told us they knew someone who had been taken to the hospital due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Over 10 percent of students from colleges and universities in the South told us they knew someone who had died from excessive drinking. Stories such as one from the University of South Carolina involving a severely intoxicated driver who had a blood alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit, represent just one of the many incidents that have resulted in almost 2,000 student lives cut short each year from alcohol-related accidents.

Conclusion

Every year, alcohol impacts the lives of thousands of college students. From freshmen to seniors, students are dealing with violence, sexual assault, and even death due to the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

For more information on drinking habits, or if you or someone you know may be suffering from a dependency on alcohol, please explore our site for available resources. We specialize in connecting you with support and provide treatment advisors available by phone 24/7. Visit ProjectKnow.com to learn how you can connect with the best local support.

Methodology

We surveyed over 1,400 college students of all ages about their consumption habits. “Greeks vs. Non-Greeks” and “College Drinking Habits, by Age” only included students aged 18 to 23.

Sources

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