College Girls Out-Boozing Boys

Alcohol consumption by college girls exceeded guidelines more than consumption by boys

(RxWiki News) Men and women are equal at many tasks, but drinking may not be among them. Too many college girls have been trying to keep up with the boys when it comes to drinking.

A recent study collected reports from college freshmen about their daily and weekly alcohol intake.

The report showed that female students were more likely than male students to drink more than is considered healthy.

"Always have the number of a cab service handy."

Bettina B. Hoeppner, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and Director of Biostatistics at the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, led a team to explore the gender differences in the drinking patterns of college students.

In 2009, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defined low-risk drinking as drinking no more than four drinks per day or 14 drinks per week for men and no more than three drinks per day or seven drinks per week for women.

The NIAAA is a component within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The NIAAA designed these drinking guidelines to protect men and women from the negative short-term and long-term health consequences of heavy drinking, binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

Short-term health consequences of high-risk drinking can include injuries and death through burns, drowning, homicide, violence, falling and car crashes.

Long-term health consequences of high-risk drinking can include liver disease, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

In 2009, the NIAAA estimated that roughly 70 percent of American adults either did not drink alcohol or drank at or below the low-risk levels outlined above.

Previous studies have shown that binge drinking is common among college students. Binge drinking is a high-risk drinking behavior in which a man drinks five drinks or more, or a woman drinks four drinks or more, alcoholic beverages in one sitting.

For this study, the researchers asked 992 college freshmen from three different New England universities to report on their drinking patterns every two weeks for the school year.

The students reported online on the number of drinks they had consumed on each of the past seven days.

Before going off to college, 58 percent of the participants had not used alcohol.

Overall, 66 percent of the students reported daily and/or weekly high-risk drinking by the end of the school year. Among the 66 percent of high-risk drinkers, 85 percent had been drinkers in high school.

Among drinkers in general, 89 percent of men and 83 percent of women went over the NIAAA drinking guidelines.

While both men and women went over the daily limit, 51 percent of women went over the weekly limit compared to 45 percent of men. And 36 percent of the women who went over the weekly limit had at least 11 drinks that week.

Men drank more than the daily drinking limit during 27 percent of the weeks reported on, and more than the weekly limit during 12 percent of the weeks. Women drank more than the daily drinking limit during 25 percent of the weeks reported on, and more than the weekly limit during 15 percent of the weeks.

Women reported drinking more than 11 drinks in a week during 8 percent of the weeks they submitted reports.

The authors concluded that female college students were 1.5 times more likely than male students to drink more than the NIAAA guidelines for low-risk drinking.

The researchers noted that binge drinking behavior tapered off as the students aged, but heavy weekly drinking remained roughly the same throughout the school year.

This study was published in May in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse provided funding for this study. No conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
May 16, 2013