Home > A typology of alcohol consumption among university students in Ireland.

Millar, Sean (2017) A typology of alcohol consumption among university students in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 62, Summer 2017, p. 24.

PDF (Drugnet issue 62)

Elevated levels of alcohol consumption among university students are well documented, with research indicating a rise in alcohol use among students in Ireland and increasing levels of high-risk drinking.1 Policy-makers have attempted to combat this problem, as tailoring effective public health policy is crucial to tackling this burgeoning issue. Recently, typologies have been hypothesised as a pertinent public health tool. While traditional analysis methods tend to categorise individuals based on consumption profile alone, a typology approach may enhance an understanding of a societal phenomenon while making it possible to note patterns.


Recent research conducted by University College Cork aimed to develop a typology of alcohol consumption among the Irish university student population.2 In this study, published in the journal BMJ Open, hundreds of possible statements on types of alcohol consumption were generated from a systematic review and a set of one-on-one interviews. These were then reduced to 36 statements. Forty-three students were advised to scan through the 36 statements and fill the statements into a ‘forced choice, standardised distribution’. Following this, a 45–90-minute interview was conducted with students to illuminate subjectivity surrounding alcohol consumption.


A typology describing four distinct groupings of alcohol consumer was uncovered. These were: 

  • ‘Guarded drinker, careful spender, controlled enjoyment’: Characterised by students who enjoy socialising but only within the remit of social, family or cultural rules, which are self-regulated, and who described their alcohol consumption as cautious and light.
  • ‘Calculated hedonists’: Students who indicated a hedonistic style of drinking. These students drank alcohol to feel pleasure, to enjoy themselves, to have fun and become drunk.
  • ‘Peer influenced with an ulterior motive’: Students who focused on consuming alcohol as part of a group or at a party. These individuals were motivated by the sense of belonging they gain from alcohol consumption, indicating that drinking helps them to feel a part of the group and adds a sense of social confidence.
  • ‘Inevitable bingers’: Students who described how they drink until all the alcohol they have is gone. These individuals noted self-inflicted dangerous situations arising from their own behaviours and drinking habits.

As this was the first study to propose types of alcohol consumption based on a student’s own subjectivity, the authors acknowledge that future research will be required to investigate the degree to which each of these types is subscribed. Nevertheless, these profiles may provide a framework for public policy-makers and health promotion practitioners when tackling alcohol consumption at both a micro and macro level.


1    Davoren MP, Shiely F, Byrne M, Perry IJ (2015) Hazardous alcohol consumption among university students in Ireland: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 5(1): e006045. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/23350/

2    Davoren MP, Cronin M, Perry IJ, O’Connor K (2016) Alcohol consumption among university students: a typology of consumption to aid the tailoring of effective public health policy. BMJ Open, 6(11): e011815.https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26485/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Screening / Assessment
Issue Title
Issue 62, Summer 2017
August 2017
Page Range
p. 24
Health Research Board
Issue 62, Summer 2017

Repository Staff Only: item control page