There’s a popular theory that when young adults go away to college and get their first taste of freedom, their inhibitions are either shed in quick order or eventually atrophy from disuse.
Alcohol is of particular interest among college leadership and concerned parents alike. How much of the rumors are true, though? Is it fair to assume that college students are heavy drinkers? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
College: A Microcosm of Society?
In the fall of 2013, a record-breaking number of students enrolled in American universities and colleges. Best estimates put the number around 21.8 million, a modest increase over just one year ago. It also represents an increase of 6.5 million students since the fall of 2000.
Collectively, Americans spent some $163 billion on alcohol in the year 2011. If you want to break that down, it means that for every $100 spent across the board, $1 was spent on alcohol. 40% of the money spent on alcohol was spent in stores, while the rest was spent at bars and pubs.
On average, college students who drink spend about $500 per year on alcohol, or $42 per month.
The Drinking Habits of College Students
Out of every American college student, about 80% of them reportedly consume alcohol while at college. That works out to about 17 million students, or twice the population of New York City.
Of that 80%, roughly half of all students who consume alcohol admit to binge drinking. To put things in perspective, only about one in six adults in the U.S. admit to binge drinking. According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined as consuming eight drinks per binge.
If you were to break it down by gender, female college students consume, on average, about four drinks per week. Male college students, on the other hand, average about nine drinks per week.
The Consequences of College Drinking
Here’s a look at some of the statistics that nobody likes to talk about. It is estimated that about 1,825 students aged 18-24 die each year as a result of alcohol-related accidents and injuries. Sexual assault is also an all-too-common consequence of alcohol consumption: more than 97,000 students are estimated to be victims of various degrees of alcohol-related sexual assault every year.
Lesser consequences can be academic in nature: some 25% of college students reportedly missed classes, fell behind in their studies, or otherwise performed poorly in class as a result of alcohol consumption.
The Financial Reality of Binge Drinking
When discussing a problem that can cost lives, it might seem almost obscene to reduce the problem to a monetary cost, but this is nevertheless a real-world way to put things in perspective.
Binge drinking in the U.S. carries a societal cost of somewhere around $223.5 billion per year, on account of health care expenses, crime, and losses in productivity.
With college students accounting for a not inconsiderable portion of those expenses, it makes sense that we’d do whatever we can to help spread the word and extend a helping hand to students who may need help with a drinking problem.
Brought to you by 12 Keys Rehab