BETHESDA, Md. — Young adults are showing greater judgment when it comes to alcohol, leading them to be involved in fewer fatal accidents caused by excessive drinking than before — but there’s a catch, a new study finds. This development is only true for those, aged 18 to 24, who are in college.
Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at data gathered from 1999 to 2014 on binge drinking, finding opposing trends during two period subsets for the college demographic.
From 1999 to 2005, college students reported a three percent gain in binge drinking rates (i.e., consuming more than five drinks in a single sitting), while this rate fell eight percent by 2014.
While over a third of 18 to 24 year olds still binge drink regularly, this statistic does not account for perhaps a more dangerous trend in extreme binge drinking, which is drinking at two times or more the binge threshold, the researchers note.
The percentage of college students who drove under the influence fell by nearly half— 28 percent to 17 percent— between 1999 and 2014, while this rate decreased by four percent among non-college students during the same period.
“A number of factors may have contributed to the recent reduction in binge drinking and its related problems among college students,” says Dr. Ralph Hingson, the study’s author and a researcher with the NIAAA, in a press release.
Some factors of note include the increased use of alcohol interventions, the decreased purchasing power of young adults after the Great Recession, and the national passage of stricter blood alcohol content (BAC) laws.
It’s still worrying that alcohol-related overdose hospitalizations and overdose deaths as a whole are on the rise, Hingson expresses, which is something that he hopes to explore with future research.
“Among young adults who aren’t in college, there aren’t the same organizational supports to implement interventions, and that may be contributing to why binge drinking is increasing in that group,” he says.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.