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Mongan, Deirdre (2007) Alcohol consumption in an Irish university. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 22, Summer 2007 , p. 9.

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In January 2007, the Geary Institute in University College Dublin (UCD) published preliminary results from its college study Behavioural economics and drinking behaviour.1  The main aim of this study was to examine alcohol consumption in an Irish university, in particular the role of demographic factors, personality, age of drinking onset and peer drinking.  

All the students in an Irish university were contacted via email and asked to participate in a web-based survey.  In total, 4,500 students responded, representing approximately 20% of the student body.  Information collected included personal details such as gender and age, physical health and psychological well-being, alcohol consumption patterns, personality, risk perception, time management and family background. Drinking behaviour was assessed by examining monthly alcohol expenditure and administering the AUDIT (alcohol use disorders identification test) screening examination. Single-equation regression models were used to study the determinants of alcohol consumption patterns and AUDIT scores.  

The study found that whether a student drank or abstained was determined by a number of variables.  When other factors were controlled for, it was found that females in general and students from families with a high parental income were more likely to drink. There was little evidence that parental drinking influenced students’ decisions to consume alcohol.  Drinking was related to closest-peer and outside-college-peer drinking, though not to college-friend drinking. 

When the determinants of AUDIT scores were examined, the results revealed a substantial effect of peer-group drinking but very little effect of parent drinking.  AUDIT scores were higher for those who began drinking at an earlier age.  Both cannabis and ecstasy usage were associated with higher AUDIT scores, suggesting complementarities between alcohol consumption and illicit drug use.  Males scored substantially higher than females on the AUDIT, even after controlling for other factors.  Associated with lower AUDIT scores were high perception of risks related to drinking and conscientiousness in terms of personality.  

The determinants of alcohol expenditure were also studied and it was found that alcohol expenditure and alcohol consumption were not strongly related.  While disposable income had an effect on alcohol expenditure, it did not have an effect on the AUDIT score.  This suggests that higher income students, rather than consuming more alcohol, tended to consume more expensive alcohol.  

The authors concluded that income was a very weak explanatory factor for alcohol consumption, and that consumption was better explained by personality and peer factors than by parental resources, family background or disposable income. They also suggested that the interplay between parental, peer and sibling drinking and their effect on alcohol consumption should remain a high priority for future research.   


1. Delaney L, Harmon C and Wall P (2007) Behavioural economics and drinking behaviour: preliminary results from an Irish college study. Dublin: UCD Geary Institute.


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 22, Summer 2007
April 2007
Page Range
p. 9
Health Research Board
Issue 22, Summer 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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