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College Binge Drinking Rates Continue to Decline in 2016

The news from the just released Monitoring the Future Report is all good as college alcohol consumption rates continued to decline in 2016. Binge drinking and extreme levels of consumption still occur on campuses across the country, and therefore, it is important for students and parents to understand the dangerous consequences of these behaviors, and have important conversations about alcohol responsibility before and after heading back to college.

The 2016 Monitoring the Future Report that includes college students’ alcohol consumption prevalence rates and trends, reveals college students drinking behaviors have remained relatively unchanged in recent years. While long-term trends illustrate a continuing steady decline in alcohol consumption, college students continue to stand out for having a relatively high level of binge drinking.

According to the Monitoring the Future Study, occasions of heavy drinking (defined as five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks) among college students remained relatively stable increasing half of one percentage point from 2015 to 2016. Additionally, the overall trend in binge drinking among college students continues to show a decline, decreasing 24 percent proportionally since 1991 (from 43% to 32%) and 21 percentage points over the past decade.

Overall, the prevalence of college drinking over the past 26 years, measured as lifetime, annual, and past 30-day consumption – had declined significantly. Nevertheless, college students continued to self-report slightly higher annual, 30-day, and binge drinking rates of alcohol consumption than their non-college age peers.

Alcohol consumption among college students differs substantially by gender, and these differences tend to be the largest at higher frequency levels, with college males drinking more than their female peers.  Over time this gender variance has been narrowing, however, there remains a large gender gap in extreme drinking.   In 2016, college males were three times more likely to report extreme levels of binge drinking than their female peers (21 percent of college males report having consumed 10 or more drinks in a row compared to 7 percent of college females) and were more than five times more likely to have consumed 15 or more drinks in a row (8.8% and 1.6%, respectively).

As parents and college students prepare for heading back to school, these results remind us to continue their conversation about binge drinking and alcohol responsibility. For tips to revive your conversation, visit Parents, You’re Not Done Yet.

(Source: University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future, 1975-2016: Volume II, College Students and Adults Ages 19-50, 8/2017)

Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research at, and her husband are proud parents of two college age children. In her free time she enjoys running and swimming and occasionally competing in triathlons as well as volunteering in her community.


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