Online Program

University spirit: An epidemiology of student alcohol consumption at a scottish university

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fergus Neville, BSc(Hons) MRes PhD, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland
Damien Williams, BSc(Hons), PhD, FRSPH, AFHEA, MBPsS, School of Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland
Christine Goodall, BDS, BSc, PGCert, FDS (OS) PhD, Community Oral Health, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Prof Peter D. Donnelly, MD MPH FRCP FFPH, Professor of Public Health Medicine, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom
Background University students in Scotland have a reputation for excessive alcohol consumption. However, traditional estimates of student drinking behaviour have been limited. This study was designed to accurately record alcohol consumption and its consequences for students attending a Scottish university. Methods The study used a cross-sectional design with a convenience sample of students enrolled at the University of St Andrews (n = 419). Participants completed an online questionnaire which included an adapted Alcohol Timeline Followback measure to record type and number of alcoholic beverages consumed over a two week period. This was later converted to alcohol units using an online calculator tool. Further, participants completed the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), and pluralistic ignorance items regarding alcohol. Results Our analysis suggests that almost one third of participants were drinking hazardous quantities of alcohol, and that consumption was characterised by ‘binge drinking', particularly on Fridays and Saturdays. Further, almost half of all participants had AUDIT scores identifying them as having either a hazardous or potentially dependent relationship with alcohol. There was also evidence of pluralistic ignorance regarding alcohol, such that on average students believed they consumed less alcohol and were less comfortable with the university drinking culture than an average student. Conclusions The study provides a snapshot of student drinking behaviour and suggests that many participants were drinking above recommended levels and indulging in binge-drinking. The adapted Alcohol Timeline Followback methodology is an improvement on traditional approaches, facilitating future (social norm) interventions that are based upon accurate data.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the alcohol consumption patterns of students at a Scottish university. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the self-report Alcohol Timeline Followback methodology. Identify drinking interventions which may be tailored to suit this population.

Keyword(s): Alcohol Use, Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved in public health research and evaluation for four years. My interests include violence prevention and health promotion where I have been involved in work on alcohol and physical activity. I was involved in the conceptualisation and design of the study, as well as the delivery, analysis and interpreation of the findings for presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.