Abstracts and tables examining drinking trends among college students since the early 1980s including comparisons between over and under-21 year old drinkers

This file includes just the abstract and tables from the articles "Boozing and Brawling," "Current Drinking from National Sample," "Drinking Games," and testing "Control of consumption" and "Reactance theories." You will see that many negative behaviors related to alcohol consumption, with the exception of drinking and driving, have increased since 1987 when all states were required to have 21 year old purchase laws. Please keep in mind that "binge drinking" is refered to as heavy drinking in these tables.

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Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson. Reduction of Consumption Theory: A test using the drinking patterns and problems of collegians in the United States, 1983-1994. College Student Journal, in press 1999.

Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson


This study was supported by funding from Indiana University and the State University of New York, Potsdam.


A national sample of university students in the United States over a twelve year time period from the 1982-1983 to the 1993-1994 academic year was used to test the reduction (control) of consumption model. The total sample size for each of five time periods during the duration of the study was: 10,247 in 1993-1994; 6,751 in 1990-1991; 6,872 in 1987-1988; 4,719 in 1984-1985; and 5,504 in 1982-1983. Students were administered The Student Alcohol Questionnaire for each of the time periods. The results showed a significant (p< .001) increase in the percent of abstainers (17.7 to 26.8) and a significant (p< .001) decrease in the mean number of drinks consumed per week among all students (14.3 to 13.1) over the twelve year period. There was a significant (p< .001) decrease in the of drinks consumed per week among all students (14.3 to 13.1) over the twelve year period. There was a significant (p< .001) decrease in the percent of students who exhibited four drinking and driving related variables, an example of which is having driven a car after consuming several drinks. However, there was a significant increase (p< .001) or stabilization of most health/ personal (for example, vomiting as a result of drinking), social/academic (for example, missing a class because of a hangover), and legal/violent (for example, getting into a fight after drinking) problems related to alcohol. It was concluded that the reduction of consumption hypothesis was supported only by the drinking and driving variables.

TABLE 1.Chi-square results comparing the percent of Abstainers, Light to Moderate, and Heavy Drinkers over the five time periods
      Quantity/Frequency  1982-83   1984-85   1987-88   1990-91   1993-94
      Drinking Patterns    N=5978    N=5209    N=7480    N=7221    N=11529
      Abstainers            17.7     10.4       20.9      21.6      26.8*

      Light-Moderate        61.8     59.8       57.6      56.9      51.9

      Heavy                 20.5     20.8       21.5      21.5      21.3
    * p < .001, X2  = 276.2, df=8

NOTE: Table 2 with changes in behavior not yet available. This article will be published sometime late 1999 in College Student Journal.

Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson. Reactance Theory: A test with collegiate drinking. Psychological Reports. 64:1083-1086, 1989.

Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson.


This study was supported by funding from Indiana University and the State University of New York, Potsdam.

ABSTRACT: Reactance theory suggests that attempting to prevent alcohol consumption among underage college students will create reactance motivation and lead to increased drinking among such students. Since July 1987, it has been illegal throughout the USA for those under 21 years of age to purchase alcohol. In a national sample of 3,375 college students during the 1987-1099 academic year, significantly (p < .05) more underage students were found to drink. This relationship is in marked contrast to the patterns document by research extending back to the early 1950s and is interpreted as supportring reactance theory.

Table 1: Drinking patterns of all students by age group in percent*
      Drinking Classification                Under 21 years    21 years +
                                               (N=1,987)       (N=1,388) 

         Abstainer                             18.8%           24.7%          

         Infrequent Drinker                     9.6            11.0

         Light Drinker                          9.5            11.1
         Moderate Drinker                      17.8            18.2

         Moderate/heavy Drinker                20.4            19.8 
         Heavy Drinker                         24.0            15.3
      * p < .001
Note: HEAVY DRINKER: drinks 5 or more drinks once a week or more; MODERATE HEAVY: drinks 3 to 4 drinks more than once a week or drinks 5 or more drinks no more that once a month at any one sitting; MODERATE: drinks at least once a month with no more than 3 to 4 drinks, drinks two or three times a week with no more than 2 to 3 drinks, or drinks daily with no more than 1 or 2 drinks; LIGHT: drinks at least once a month but not more than 1 to 3 drinks; INFREQUENT: drinks more than once a year but less than once a month: ABSTAINER: drinks less than once a year or not at all.

Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson. Drinking Games and problems related to drinking among moderate and heavy drinkers. Psychological Reports. 73:115-120, 1993

Ruth C. Engs and David J. Hanson

This study was supported by funding from Indiana University and the State University of New York, Potsdam.


ABSTRACT: The playing of drinking games, the quantity-frequency of alcohol consumption, and various problems related to drinking were assessed among a national sample of 3,830 alcohol consuming students from 58 American colleges and universities during the 1990-1991 academic year. Among Light-Moderate drinkers, a significantly higher proportion of students who had played a drinking game experienced 15 of 17 drinking-related problems. On the other hand, among Heavy drinkers there was little difference between game and non-game players. A higher percentage of game players had experienced five of the problems. Generally, for many problems, more than twice as many Heavy drinkers among both game and non game players had exhibited the problem compared to more moderate drinkers. It was concluded that game playing appeared to increase problems related to alcohol primarily among more moderate drinkers whereas Heavy drinking students were exhibiting more problems regardless of their game-playing status. Education about the effect of game playing among students who are moderate drinkers should be addressed.

Table 1: Chi-square analysis showing the percent of students who indicated they had experienced a problem related to drinking and their DRINKING GAME STATUS among both light to moderate (N=2802) and heavy drinkers (N=1028) during the 1990-1991 academic year
                            LIGHT TO MODERATE         HEAVY DRINKERS
                           Have Played Games         Have Played Games

                          YES          NO               YES        NO
Problem                  (n=1924)    (n=878)           (n=962)   (n=66)
Hangover                  78.7         43.5*             95.5     89.4+

Nausea or                 54.1         20.8*             76.9     51.5*

Driven car                39.1         22.0*              6.3     73.4
after several

Driven car                27.1         12.4*             56.9      60.9
when knew had
too much to drink

Driven while              27.9         11.0*             58.4      51.6

Come to class              4.5          1.1*             16.1      12.5
after drinking

Cut classes                7.6          2.2*             23.8      13.6
because of

Missed class              24.8          4.0*             57.5      30.3*
because of hangover

Arrested for DWI            .5           .5               3.5       3.1

Criticized by             10.4          4.0*             24.1      14.1

Trouble with               4.5           .6*             18.8       9.4
the law

Lost a job                  .3           .0               1.4       1.6

Lower grade                4.3          1.1*             15.2       9.4

Trouble with               1.4           .2+              6.3       4.7
school administra-

Gotten into               13.4           3.2*            36.4       9.1*
a fight

Thought might              6.9           3.5*            20.4      25.0
have drinking

Damaged property           7.0            .9*            25.6       6.1+
+ p < .05     * p < .001

Please note that the number of students and colleges included for each time period may differ in different articles. This is due to the fact that not all colleges participated each time.