Binge Drinking on College Campuses Unaffected by School and Community Alcohol Policies

Study to examine the relationship of public and college policies on student binge drinking and tobacco use

Investigators at Harvard University School of Public Health studied the effects of college and community policies on drinking, smoking and related problems among college students.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) (for more information see Program Results).

Researchers analyzed data from 1993 and 1997 surveys of students at 116 four-year colleges and universities in 40 states.

Key Findings: Among the findings of the study:

  • The rate of binge drinking remained at 40 percent both years.
  • Binge drinkers and those in the environment of binge drinkers faced greater risk of alcohol-related problems.
  • Smoking on college campuses is on the rise.
  • Although strong college alcohol-control policies reduced drinking overall, they did not significantly reduce average weekly drinking or binge drinking.
  • Only campus-wide policies that ban drinking on campus entirely resulted in decreased levels of binge drinking and the secondhand effects of binge drinking.
  • General school policies concerning enforcement of alcohol bans, policies regarding alcohol at campus events or in residence halls, fraternities and sororities, and policies about disciplinary action were largely unrelated to binge drinking.