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Magnitude of Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24


(1) Objectives: This report estimates the numbers of 18-24 year-old United States college students who annually experience alcohol-related deaths, injuries, and other health problems.

(2) Method: We examined traffic and unintentional injury deaths in 1998 reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We also examined results of national coroner studies, U.S. Department of Education college enrollment data, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), the CDC National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (NCHRBS), and the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Survey (CAS). All survey participants were ages 18-24: 6,930 college and 12,394 non-college respondents in the NHSDA survey; 3,077 college students in the CDC survey; and 12,217 four-year full-time college students in the CAS. Based on the number and proportion of 18-24 year-olds who were enrolled in college, data on alcohol involvement in injury deaths among 18-24 year-olds, and survey responses, we calculated the numbers of 18-24 year-old alcohol-related injury deaths and other health problems.

(3) Results: We estimate over 1,400 students 18 through 24 in two and four-year colleges died in 1998 from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. According to surveys conducted in 1999, in the preceding year over two million of the eight million college students in the United States drove under the influence of alcohol and over three million rode with a drinking driver. Over 500,000 full-time four-year college students were unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol, and over 600,000 were hit or assaulted by another student who has been drinking.

(4) Conclusions: There is an urgent need to expand prevention and treatment programs to reduce alcohol-related harm among U.S. college students.

Hingson R, Heeren T, Zakocs RC, Kopstein A, Wechsler H.

Original Publication:
Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 2002; 63(2): 136-144.