Alcohol use among college students is nothing new. It’s estimated that 84 percent consume alcohol regularly—higher than the rate in the general population. Students drink for many reasons, the most common of which is to socialize with peers. The pandemic has only contributed to problematic drinking behaviors. Surveys show that alcohol use in the general population has increased throughout the pandemic. Lack of social opportunities, stress, and boredom are three of the main reasons cited for this uptick in alcohol consumption.
Drinking alcohol can pose a risk to health and safety including increasing the risk of liver disease, heart disease, injuries, alcohol use disorder, some cancers, and even death. Students have also reported effects such as hangovers, fatigue, and embarrassment as a result of drinking.
But alcohol use doesn’t only affect the person drinking. A recent survey of 21,297 Canadian post-secondary students found that 31 percent of respondents were impacted by others’ drinking. These impacts include having to take care of a fellow student, arguments, and interrupted sleep and studying.
What is considered “responsible” alcohol use?
The Dietary Guidelines are clear. People who do not drink alcohol should not start and some people should not drink at all (e.g., those who are under the legal drinking age). Those who are at least 21 years old who choose to drink should do their best to minimize their alcohol consumption. The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.
What can colleges do to encourage responsible alcohol use among students?
According to the CDC, there are a number of measures that campus communities can put into place to prevent excessive alcohol use, including:
- Reducing the number of places where students can purchase or consume alcohol.
- Limiting the days and hours in which alcohol can be sold or served on campus.
- Enhancing enforcement of laws prohibiting alcohol to be sold to minors.
In addition to measures such as those listed above, some colleges may be able to implement full-service alcohol prevention, abuse treatment, and education programs to support students affected by alcohol.
How CampusWell can help you foster a culture of responsible drinking on campus
Your college’s campus culture starts with what you offer students. This includes programming that educates students on responsible drinking, campus services available to help them if they need it, and support for their physical, mental, and social well-being.
CampusWell is a leader in creating relatable, science-based wellness content for college students. We provide over 200 schools with content covering all eight dimensions of wellness, including judgment-free advice on moderating alcohol use. Our previous articles about responsible alcohol use include:
CampusWell is a versatile platform that helps make a multi-departmental wellness initiative simple, sustainable, and engaging. Using technology, high quality, research-based content, and proven marketing strategies, together with your existing assets, we deliver a campus-wide wellness platform that will positively impact your students and institution.
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Braby, L., Holcomb, M., & Leonhard, C. (2020). Examining the relationship between ethnic identity, depression, and alcohol use among students at historically black colleges/universities (HBCUs). Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 1–17. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332640.2020.1793864
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 29). Dietary guidelines for alcohol. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 17). Preventing excessive alcohol use. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/prevention.htm
DiBello, A. M., Hatch, M. R., Miller, M. B., Neighbors, C., & Carey, K. B. (2021). Opportunities for reducing college drinking: The roles of drinking attitudes and blackout experience. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 45(7), 1494–1503. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.14638
Erlikhman, L. (2021, August 23). Universities need to prepare for student binge drinking after COVID-19 shutdowns. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/universities-need-to-prepare-for-student-binge-drinking-after-covid-19-shutdowns-165360
Health Canada. (2021, May 10). Canadian postsecondary education alcohol and drug use survey, 2019/2020. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/alcohol/cpads/
Health Canada. (2021, July 5). Low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/alcohol/low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines.html
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Drinking levels defined. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020 December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf