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Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jul;19(1):24-9.

Environmental correlates of underage alcohol use and related problems of college students.

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Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Underage alcohol use is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in adolescents and young adults. This study examined drinking levels and ensuing problems among college students and factors associated with binge drinking.


The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study conducted a self-administered survey. The participants include a random sample of 7061 students aged <21 years (defined as underage drinkers), and 4989 between ages 21 and 23 in 1997 at 116 nationally representative 4-year colleges in 39 states. The outcomes of the study include self-reports of alcohol use, binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more for women at least once in a 2-week period), alcohol-related problems, preferred type of drink, access to alcohol, and price paid per drink.


Underage students drink less often but have more drinks per occasion, are more likely to drink in private settings (off-campus, dormitory, and fraternity parties), and pay less per drink than do of-age students. Correlates of underage binge drinking include residence in a fraternity or sorority (odds ratio [OR]=6.2), very easy access to alcohol (OR=3.3), obtaining drinks at lower prices (OR=2.1, for under $1 each or a set fee for unlimited drinks), and drinking beer (OR=9.5).


Effective controls on price, access, and fraternity and off-campus parties, and reinforcing minimum drinking age laws are needed to reduce the high levels of binge drinking and related health and behavioral problems of underage students.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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