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Alcohol Alcohol. 2014 Nov;49(6):604-17. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agu061. Epub 2014 Sep 23.

Sports and Spirits: A Systematic Qualitative Review of Emergent Theories for Student-Athlete Drinking.

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Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK
Department of Psychology, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK.



To review the current literature and critically examine theories used to explain the link between athletic status and hazardous alcohol consumption, and highlight emergent perspectives.


A search of online databases (Google Scholar, PubMed, ScienceDirect, PsychINFO) and a systematic methodology were used to identify relevant studies for inclusion. Sixty-six articles were included for review (publishing dates ranging from 1989 to 2013).


The majority of the studies were from the USA (n = 52), with cross-sectional surveys the most utilized method of data collection. The literature outlines a number of important sport-specific factors that may be motivating drinking behaviour among student athletes. Moreover, social processes appear particularly important for sport-associated drinking. However there is still paucity in the theoretical underpinnings for this relationship, and the processes through which membership of a sports group may shape its members drinking. The role of identity emerged as an important variable to consider when exploring engagement of health behaviours, such as alcohol consumption.


With the aim of reducing alcohol-related harm, the impact of sports group membership on psychosocial variables such as social identity and well-being warrants further exploration. Future research should explore the role of identity and group-level processes when examining the engagement of drinking behaviours of student sportspeople.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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