Two-thirds of students report hazardous drinking

Consumption pattern among women now similar to that in men, UCC study indicates

Two-thirds of students are drinking hazardous amounts of alcohol every week, according to a university study.

The study carried out by researchers at University College Cork found that about 66 per cent of students responding to a questionnaire reported hazardous alcohol consumption, with 65.2 per cent of men and 67.3 per cent of women saying they engaged in unsafe drinking.

At the higher end of the scale, the study, which involved 2,275 undergraduates at UCC, found approximately 17 per cent of men and 5 per cent of women were consuming more than six units of alcohol at least four times a week and, in some cases, on a daily basis.

The study found “hazardous alcohol consumption drastically increased the possibility of adverse consequence, including missing days from university and so affecting their academic performance”.

“The pattern and frequency of adverse consequences of alcohol consumption was broadly similar in men and women, though men were more likely to report getting into a fight or to have a ‘one-night stand’.”

Gender gap

The research, published in the BMJ Open medical journal, had an overall response rate of 51 per cent and an in-class response rate of 84 per cent. These are comparable figures with other major international studies on student alcohol consumption.

The research was led by UCC researcher and PhD candidate Martin Davoren with support from UCC colleagues Dr Frances Shiely and Prof Ivan Perry, and from Dr Michael Byrne of UCC’s student health department.

Mr Davoren said the motivation for the study came from the need for reliable data on patterns of alcohol consumption in the student population, given that recent national and international research indicated a narrowing gender gap in this population.

“A decade ago the college lifestyle and attitudinal national survey noted males were drinking more than their female counterparts. We are now seeing women drinking as much as men,” he said.

“This finding is yet another signpost that our relationship with alcohol as a nation is unwholesome and detrimental to health. It impacts on us all and these findings should not be seen as merely a young person, student or UCC issue.

“Currently the State is at a decision point with regard to policies on the promotion of sports sponsorship and this study highlights the need for effective public-policy measures such as a minimum unit price for alcohol and a full ban on sports sponsorship,” he said.