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Related Research



A growing body of research exists and is useful in trying to understand high-risk drinking on college campuses and the relative effectiveness of various strategies intended to reduce it.

College Academic Performance and Alcohol Use  Excerpt of an article by H. Wesley Perkins with citation, references and a link to entire article.

Annual Consequences of High-Risk College Drinking  A summary prepared by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism with references and a link to original sources.

Journal of Studies on Alcohol: Commissioned Papers. Links to the website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) which provides links to a series of commissioned articles (in downloadable PDF format) on topics related to college drinking.

College Drinking, What It Is, and What To Do about it. Links to an online version of a review of the state of the science by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol (in downloadable PDF format by section).

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  (NIAAA). Links to the website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) which is a one-stop resource for comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students.

National Social Norms Resource Center. Links to the research page of National Social Norms Resource Center website which includes summaries and citations of relevant research articles.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Links to the research page of The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth website which includes research articles.



College Academic Performance and Alcohol Use

This article summarizes the research on the relationship between academic performance by college students and drinking behavior and suggests, that through a variety of research approaches, there is a clear negative correlation between drinking and academic performance.

From Perkins, H. W. (2002). Surveying the Damage: A Review of Research on Consequences of Alcohol Misuse in College Populations. Journal of Studies in Alcohol, Supplement 14, p. 91-100. 

Available  here. Following is an excerpt:

Academic impairment.  A substantial amount of empirical research is available demonstrating a connection between alcohol consumption and impaired academic performance. Among 41,581 students responding to the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey in representative mail and classroom administrations at 89 institutions holding FIPSE drug prevention program grants nationwide in 1992-94, 22% indicated that they had performed poorly on a test or project (26% of drinkers), and 28% had missed a class during the last year (33% or one-third of drinkers) due to alcohol or other drug use (Presley et al., 1996). Wechsler et al.'s (1998) nationwide College Alcohol Study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 14,521 students attending 116 fouryear colleges and universities in 1997 and found that 24% (30% of drinkers) reported missing a class within the current academic year as a result of drinking and 19% (23% of drinkers) reported getting behind in schoolwork during the current year as a result of drinking. Males drinking 5+ drinks or females drinking 4+ drinks in a row one or two times in a 2-week period were more than three times as likely to report getting behind in schoolwork due to their drinking in the current year in comparison with more moderate drinkers, and males drinking 5+ or females drinking 4+ drinks in a row on at least three occasions in a 2-week period were more than eight times more likely to report this problem.

Similarly, Engs et al.'s (1996) Student Alcohol Questionnaire administered to 12,081 students who were contacted in a demographically representative quota sample of 168 four-year institutions across the United States in 1994 revealed higher levels of consumption associated with markedly higher rates of alcohol-related academic problems. Among "low-risk drinkers" (males consuming 21 or fewer drinks and females consuming 14 or fewer drinks per week), 11% had missed class due to a hangover, and less than 3% noted having received a lower grade due to drinking. Among "high-risk" drinkers (22+ drinks/week for males and 15+ drinks/week for females), however, more than half of these survey respondents had missed classes due to a hangover, and more than 15% reported receiving a lower grade due to their drinking.

High rates of drinking-related academic problems can be found in demographically diverse campus settings. For example, Werch et al. (1987) found that 18% of a sample of 410 students (23% of drinkers in the sample) attending a midsize southern university admitted they had missed class due to a hangover in the past year. Perkins (1992) found one-third of students reporting they had missed classes or examinations or had performed poorly on assignments due to their drinking during the academic year in a sample of 584 students from a small, private college with few abstainers in the Northeast.

In addition to students' subjective determinations of academic impairment, a consistent association between self-reported grade averages and levels of alcohol consumption is revealed in several studies. For example, among Core Survey respondents nationally (Presley et al., 1996), A average students consumed an average of 3.4 drinks per week, B average students were drinking 4.5 drinks, C students were drinking 6.1 drinks, and D or F students typically drank 9.8 drinks. This pattern was found at 2-year schools as well as 4-year institutions. Likewise, Engs et al. (1996) reported a consistent inverse relationship between weekly drink averages and grade point average in their national study. Of course, correlation does not prove causality here. Although quite plausible, it cannot be determined with certainty from these cross-sectional data that heavier drinking per se was responsible for the lower grade performances. Wood et al. (1997) provided this caution based on their study of 444 students attending a large midwestern university. Although they also found a bivariate association between problematic alcohol use and academic problems, most of the association was accounted for by controlling for family background factors and student academic characteristics that existed before any collegiate drinking.




Engs, R.C., Diebold, B.A. and Hanson , D.J. The drinking patterns and problems of a national sample of college students, 1994. J. Alcohol Drug Educ.  41 (3): 13-33, 1996.

Perkins, H.W. Gender patterns in consequences of collegiate alcohol abuse: A 10-year study of trends in an undergraduate population.  J. Stud. Alcohol  53: 458-462, 1992.

Presley, C.A., Meilman, P.W. and Cashin, J.R.  Alcohol and Drugs on   American College Campuses: Use, Consequences and Perceptions of the Campus Environment,  Volume IV: 1992-1994, Carbondale, IL: Core Institute, Southern IllinoisUniversity, 1996.

Wechsler, H., Dowdall, G.W., Maenner, G., Gledhill-Hoyt, J. and Lee, H. Changes in binge drinking and related problems among American college students between 1993 and 1997. Results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Survey.  J. Amer. Coll. Hlth  47: 57- 68, 1998.

Werch, C.E., Gorman, D.R. and Marty, P.J. Relationship between alcohol consumption and alcohol problems in young adults.  J. Drug Educ. 17: 261-275, 1987.

Wood, P.K., Sher, K.J., Erickson, D.J. and DeBord, K.A. Predicting academic problems in college from freshman alcohol involvement.  J. Stud. Alcohol  58: 200-210, 1997.



Annual Consequences of High-Risk College Drinking

From Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2002). A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U. S. Colleges.Washington, DC: National Institutes of Health.

Full report and references available  here.

The consequences of excessive and underage drinking affect virtually all college campuses, college communities, and college students, whether a given student chooses to drink or not:


  • Death:  1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes (Hingson et al., 2005).
  • Injury:  599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2005).
  • Assault:  More than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking (Hingson et al., 2005).
  • Sexual Abuse:  More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (Hingson et al., 2005).
  • Unsafe Sex:  400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex (Hingson et al., 2002).
  • Academic Problems:  About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall (Engs et al., 1996; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 2002).
  • Health Problems/Suicide Attempts:  More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem (Hingson et al., 2002) and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use (Presley et al., 1998).
  • Drunk Driving:  2.1 million students between the ages of 18 and 24 drove under the influence of alcohol last year (Hingson et al., 2002).
  • Vandalism:  About 11 percent of college student drinkers report that they have damaged property while under the influence of alcohol (Wechsler et al., 2002).
  • Property Damage:  More than 25 percent of administrators from schools with relatively low drinking levels and over 50 percent from schools with high drinking levels say their campuses have a "moderate" or "major" problem with alcohol-related property damage (Wechsler et al., 1995).
  • Police Involvement:  About 5 percent of 4-year college students are involved with the police or campus security as a result of their drinking (Wechsler et al., 2002) and an estimated 110,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are arrested for an alcohol-related violation such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence (Hingson et al., 2002).
  • Alcohol Abuse and Dependence:  31 percent of college students met criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and 6 percent for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence in the past 12 months, according to questionnaire-based self-reports about their drinking (Knight et al., 2002).