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Curtin, Margaret (2015) Hazardous alcohol consumption among university students. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 54, Summer 2015 , p. 13.

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A recently published paper reports on a study undertaken with a sample of 2,275 undergraduate students at University College Cork. The aim of the study was to investigate the prevalence of hazardous alcohol consumption (HAC) and the associated adverse consequences among university students in Ireland, with particular reference to gender differences.

A questionnaire, based on previously validated instruments, was distributed to students during lecture time between 12 and 23 March 2012.  HAC was estimated using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test for Consumption (AUDIT-C), developed by the WHO: it measures frequency of consumption, number of units consumed and number of binge drinking occasions.  The study took into account the fact that guidelines for safe alcohol consumption are lower for women owing to their increased vulnerability to alcohol-related harm.  Body-mass index was estimated based on self-reported height and weight.  Logistic regression analysis was used to estimate factors associated with HAC for both men and women.

The study found that the prevalence of HAC was similar in men (65%) and women (67%) and was considerably higher than that previously reported in the general population.  Moreover, 57% of women were drinking at a level that would be considered hazardous for men.  Over one quarter of hazardous drinkers were consuming more than six units of alcohol (binge drinking) at least 2–3 times per week.  Factors associated with HAC were studying law and business, not owning a house, current smoking, illicit drug use and being sexually active.

The pattern and frequency of adverse consequences of alcohol consumption were broadly similar for men and women.  However, men were more likely to report getting into a fight and having a one-night stand than women.  Among those with a HAC pattern, missing days at work or college as a result of drinking was reported by 60% of men and 57% of women, compared to 15% of men and 14% of women in the non-HAC student population.  Hazardous drinkers were also more likely to engage in unplanned sexual activity and were less likely to use protection.

Results show that patterns of alcohol consumption in these Irish university students are similar to those among British students but significantly higher than among students in the USA.  Moreover, this paper highlights the association between HAC  and the 12–month prevalence of illicit drug use. The authors state that these two behaviours need to be tackled concurrently.

The authors conclude that HAC continues to be a public health concern in Irish universities both in terms of immediate adverse consequences and long-term risks to physical and mental well-being. (Margaret Curtin)

1 Davoren MP, Shiely F, Byrne l and Perry I J (2015) Hazardous alcohol consumption among university students in Ireland: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 5 (e006045)

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 54, Summer 2015
Date:July 2015
Page Range:p. 13
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 54, Summer 2015
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Subjects:A Drugs and alcohol use, abuse, and dependence > Drugs and alcohol effects and consequences
G Health and disease > Drugs and alcohol disorder > Alcohol use
T Demographic characteristics > Undergraduate or graduate student
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland > Cork

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