Alcohol-related deaths among U.S. students on the rise

Rates of binge drinking and drinking-and-driving also up

New research is showing that alcohol-related deaths among U.S. university students have been on the rise over the past decade, according to an article in the July supplement of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

For students between 18 and 24 years old, the number of drinking-related accidental deaths increased from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 in 2005. The stats were compiled by researchers at the American National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, using figures from government databases and national surveys on alcohol consumption.

Simultaneously, the proportion of students who reported recent binge drinking rose from 42 to 45 percent, while the proportion who admitted to drinking and driving in the past increased from 26.5 to 29 percent.

“The fact that we’re not making progress is very concerning,” said Ralph Hingson, lead researcher and director of the institute’s epidemiology and prevention research department. “The irony is that during this same time period, our knowledge of what works as far as intervention in this age group has increased.”

In an effort to fight alcohol problems in student populations, between 2004 and 2005, Hingson and his group selected 15 universities with serious student-drinking issues to work with the agency in an effort to develop new program. The resulting strategies ranged from counseling for students with drinking problems to projects involving the local community and law enforcement.

However, Hingson maintains that legislation can also have an impact on student deaths. Although rates of drinking and driving went up between 1998 and 2005, the trend started to reverse during that time period. In 2002, about 31 per cent of students drove under the influence, while in 2005 that number ent down to 29 per cent. Hingson says this can be correlated with the fact that, by 2005, all U.S. states had made it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08 per cent or higher.