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Magnitude of and Trends in Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24, 1998-2005

Ralph W. Hingson, Wenxing Zha, Elissa R. Weitzman

Objective: The aim of this study was to estimate, among college students ages 18-24, the numbers of alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths and other problems over the period from 1998 through 2005. Method: The analysis integrated data on 18- to 24-year-olds and college students from each of the following data sources: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Mortality Data, National Coroner Studies, census and college enrollment data, the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the College Alcohol Study. Results: Among college students ages 18-24, alcohol-related unintentional injury deaths increased 3% per 100,000 from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005. From 1999 to 2005, the proportions of college students ages 18-24 who reported consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month increased from 41.7% to 44.7%, and the proportions who drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year increased from 26.5% to 28.9%7% and 9% proportional increases, respectively. The increases occurred among college students ages 21-24, not 18-20. In 2001, 599,000 (10.5%) full-time 4-year college students were injured because of drinking, 696,000 (12%) were hit or assaulted by another drinking college student, and 97,000 (2%) were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. A 2005 follow-up of students in schools with the highest proportions of heavy drinkers found no significant changes in the proportions experiencing these events. Conclusions: The persistence of college drinking problems underscores an urgent need to implement prevention and counseling approaches identified through research to reduce alcohol-related harms among college students and other young adults. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, Supplement No. 16: 12-20,2009)