NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Number Of Abstainers And Binge Drinkers On Campuses Rises

March 15, 2000

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health reveals that moderate alcohol use among college students is declining, while both abstinence and binge drinking are on the rise. This despite a decade of aggressive prevention efforts.

Binge drinking is defined as five or more consecutive drinks for men and four for women.

  • The proportion of college students having three or more binges in two weeks has risen from 19.8 percent of respondents in a 1993 survey to 22.7 percent in 1999.
  • The proportion of occasional binge drinkers -- those having one or two binges in two weeks -- fell from 24.7 percent in 1993 to 21.4 percent last year.
  • The percentage of those who drink but do not go on binges also declined from 40.1 percent to 36.6 percent.
  • Finally, the number of abstainers rose from 15.4 percent to 19.2 percent.

The study reported more students choosing to live in alcohol-free dormitories. More than three-quarters of the students surveyed said they had experienced the second-hand effects of binge drinking -- including being interrupted while studying or awakened, having to take care of a drunken student or being insulted or humiliated.

Ninety-seven percent of the 734 institutions surveyed had alcohol education programs in place and 40 percent said they were working with groups in their communities to address under-age drinking.

Source: Jodi Wilgoren, "Efforts to Curb Binge Drinking in College Falls Short," New York Times, March 15, 2000.


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