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J Am Coll Health. 1990 May;38(6):263-9.

Alcohol use among college students: responses to raising the purchase age.

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Department of Educational Studies, University of Delaware, Newark.


On December 1, 1985, New York State raised its alcohol purchase age from 19 to 21. We used a quasi-experimental research design to explore the changes in alcohol use behaviors and attitudes of undergraduates at a large central New York university before and after this legislation was enacted. The overwhelming majority of this undergraduate population is under 21 years old and is thus affected by the new legislation. A comparison of data from the two survey times revealed that 90% of the undergraduates sampled continued to drink at least occasionally. Our analysis of drinking quantity showed a slight moderation in alcohol consumption overall, with the greatest changes occurring for the heaviest drinkers--men and members of Greek organizations. Even with apparent moderation in student drinking, reported negative consequences such as physical injuries were more common. A change in drinking location to less-controlled environments, such as private rooms and unmonitored parties, is offered as one possible explanation.

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