College Binge Drinking Facts

Binge drinking is consistently voted as the most serious problem on campuses by collegiate presidents.

What is "˜binge drinking?'

The conventional definition for "binge drinking" is consumption or five or more drinks in a given sitting. While this can occur at any time during life, the most concentrated period for people drinking at this level is during college, or roughly the ages of 18 - 22.

Is binge drinking a serious problem?

College presidents repeatedly list binge drinking as the number one problem on their campuses. With increases in alcohol-related deaths over the past five years (including multiple cases of students falling out of dorm windows), the issue has taken a much more serious tone recently.

Who are binge drinkers?

According to a landmark 1999 study by Harvard University of 119 colleges nationwide, 44% of college students polled had engaged in "binge drinking" activities within the last two weeks. The most typical subgroup for this behavior is a white sorority or fraternity member, age 23 or younger. Binge drinkers in high school --- often the result of lax parenting --- are three times more likely to binge drink in college.

Despite the US drinking age being 21 (most students turn 21 as juniors in college), the binge drinking rate was almost uniform from freshman year (typical age of 18) to senior year (typical age of 22). Additionally, over half of the binge drinking population reported themselves to be "frequent bingers," meaning they engaged in drinking at that level more than three times in any given two-week period. Conversely, less than 20 percent of all students indicated they abstained from alcohol.

Some Negative Effects

Those who engage in binge drinking are 21 times more likely to:

· Miss class

· Fall behind in their schoolwork

· Get in trouble with a campus authority figure

· Engaged in unplanned sexual activity or not use contraception in such a situation

· Damage property

· Be injured

· Attempt to drive a car while drunk

Recent cases at University of Michigan and University of Colorado --- both football-crazed schools where weekends of big wins are often dictated by the campus Greek system --- have also shown that binge drinking may result in death.

Impact on Other Students

Among students who were not binge drinking on a given night, here are some percentages of outcomes for their evenings:

· 71% have had sleep or study interrupted

· 23% had a serious argument with the drunk individual

· 11% had been pushed, hit, or assaulted by the binge drinker

· 57% had to spend the majority of their sleep time caring for the intoxicated student

· 23% had experienced an unwanted sexual encounter

· 36% had been insulted or otherwise humiliated

· 16% had property damaged


With a clearly researched list of negative outcomes from binge drinking, the natural question is --- why do students do it?

47% of those polled in the Harvard survey claim they "drink to get drunk," a common phrase on college campuses. This correlates with another oft-reported reason, "academic stress and peer pressure." Getting drunk, in the eyes of a collegian, removes you from the everyday problems of your life.

Although not the number one reported reason for binge drinking activity, another stated rationale was "the culture of alcohol consumption on campus." Many college parties involve drinking games --- beer pong (Beirut) is a popular one, as is "flip cup" and "quarters." These games are deceptive, in the sense that since you're having fun with friends, you often don't realize exactly how much alcohol you're consuming. On most college campuses, the trend is to attempt to down 21 drinks on your 21st birthday --- any combination of beers, shots, and mixed drinks. This is an extremely unhealthy amount to drink in one evening, and more than quadruples the amount of drinks needed to constitute "binge drinking."

A final reason stated in the Harvard survey is "social status associated with drinking." Indeed, at most campuses, popular athletic figures and fraternity presidents drink in massive quantities. The underlying perception may be that the drinking makes them cool, or adds to their coolness. In addition, binge drinking often leads to unplanned sexual encounters, and many underclassmen wrongly perceive an older male collegian's ability to lure females as related to his coolness, when in fact it might be related to his consistent proximity to binge drinking activity.

Next Steps

Campuses are becoming more vigilant about policing parties. Oftentimes, a party must be registered to a house of students who are all of legal drinking age, and the amount of alcohol present must correlate to the expected attendance. While this approach is a step in the right direction, "unplanned" parties spring up across universities every weekend, and those must be controlled as well.

College-area bars are undergoing stricter penalties for serving underage students, and many managers are receiving courses on fake ID and acceptable drinking limits. Some university presidents have eliminated Greek life, or specific chapters of Greek life that tend to cause the most problems.

To counter the perception that "everyone is getting drunk," many colleges have begun to invest large amounts of money in alternative weekend programming, such as cultural events and recently-released movies showing on campus. The belief is that these opportunities will keep kids away from drinking.

A major factor in the prevention of binge drinking is effective parenting. Parents should be strict with their children in high school --- oftentimes, binge drinking activities in college are initiated by people familiar with the culture from high school --- and consistently remind their children in college that the goal is higher education. Empathetic parenting goes a long way towards preventing excessive drinking crises.

© High Speed Ventures 2011