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UMD College of Liberal Arts - Center for Addiction Studies - Alcohol Consumption Characteristics Among Lake Superior College Students: Differences in Drinking Amounts Heavier and Lighter than the Mean

Alcohol Consumption Characteristics Among Lake Superior College Students: Differences in Drinking Amounts Heavier and Lighter than the Mean

Terry R. Warness
Center for Addiction Studies University of Minnesota Duluth  

Faculty Research Supervisor:
J. Clark Laundergan, Ph.D.
 
Research Funding:
The Miller-Dwan Foundation

September 2006

Executive Summary 

This report describes characteristics of alcohol consumption and consumers among 546 students at Lake Superior College (LSC) who took the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey in the fall of 2004. The purpose is to describe the scope and consequences of alcohol use among these students in an effort to inform future intervention and prevention strategies. It should be noted that Lake Superior College is a community college and is different from conventional state colleges because about 34% of the student body at LSC is composed of non-traditional students, meaning that they are older than 25 years old. LSC offers two-year technical and college preparatory programs.

Respondents to the NCHA survey from LSC were broken into three categories based on their responses to question number thirteen (13) “The last time you partied/socialized, how many alcoholic drinks did you have?” The mean number of drinks among alcohol-using students was 7.54 (nondrinkers were excluded from this calculation and the average has been rounded up to 8 drinks). Categories of drinkers were then created around this mean of 8 drinks, and were categorized as “below the mean drinkers,” who consumed less than 8 drinks on their last drinking occasion (N=264), and as “at or above the mean drinkers,” who consumed 8 or more drinks on their last drinking occasion (N=187). A third category, “nondrinkers,” was created with respondents who claimed that they drank zero alcoholic beverages on their last partying occasion, and who also answered that they “don’t drink” to other survey items (N=95). These three categories’ responses to other survey questions were then compared in an effort to uncover and describe differences in health and well-being between the three alcohol use categories.

Substantial findings described in this report are that:

  • At or above the mean drinkers practiced “safe drinking measures,” such as eating before drinking and setting a limit of drinks not to exceed, less than their below the mean drinking counterparts.
  • At or above the mean drinkers experienced more negative consequences, such as injuring themselves or forgetting where they were, than did the below the mean drinkers as a result of their alcohol consumption.
  • At or above the mean drinkers were the most likely to report suffering from a number of ailments or illnesses that negatively affected their health.
  • Alcohol using respondents were more likely than nondrinkers to report experiencing a number of feelings associated with depression, such as feeling hopeless or very sad.
  • At or above the mean drinkers were the most involved with drug use and sexual intercourse, while nondrinkers were the least involved in these activities.
  • Nondrinkers were the least likely to use condoms during their last occasion of sexual intercourse, while at or above the mean drinkers were the most likely to use condoms.
  • At or above the mean drinkers experienced the most negative academic effects resulting from impediments in their lives, including impediments not associated with alcohol use, such as relationship difficulties or colds or flu, while nondrinkers experienced the least negative academic effects from impediments in their lives.

Clearly there are differences in the health, wellness, and lifestyles of the three drinking categories at Lake Superior College. The heaviest drinkers were the most likely to engage in drug use and sexual activity. They were also the most likely to report experiencing negative consequences resulting from their drinking, and were the least likely to report engaging in preventative safe drinking measures. The heaviest drinkers also experienced the most negative academic effects from both their alcohol consumption and from factors not associated with that alcohol use. With a clearer picture of the trends associated with alcohol consumption among LSC students, it becomes evident that efforts to lower that consumption may also help lower other risky behaviors associated with it, and by extension increase the quality of life for everyone at LSC