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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2014 Sep;40(5):380-7. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2014.918623.

Drinking games and contextual factors of 21st birthday drinking.

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Department of Psychology, University of Houston , Houston, TX , USA.



21st birthday celebrations are among the highest risks for alcohol use throughout emerging adulthood and celebrants often experience a range of alcohol-related consequences.


The present research considered what happens when drinking games are paired with an already high-risk event (i.e., 21st birthday celebrations) and how drinking games compare with other contextual factors on 21st birthdays.


Approximately four days after turning 21, 1124 college students (55% women) completed an online survey assessing alcohol use and related consequences experienced during their birthday celebrations. Participants were also asked whether drinking games and other contextual factors were associated with their celebrations.


Overall, 18% of participants reported playing drinking games during their 21st birthday celebrations. These individuals reported consuming more alcohol, had higher estimated BACs, and experienced more negative consequences than those who did not play drinking games. The association between playing drinking games and alcohol use and negative consequences was stronger for men. The effect of drinking games on negative consequences was mediated through elevated BAC levels. Receiving bar specials, having drinks purchased, playing drinking games, and loud music were uniquely and significantly associated with all alcohol outcomes.


Together, these results suggest that drinking games are part of a larger context of risk contributing to extreme drinking on 21st birthdays. Furthermore, these results will help to facilitate interventions that are more individually tailored to target specific contextual risks, behaviors, and events.


21st birthday; alcohol problems; alcohol use; context; drinking games

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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