College Student Binge Drinking and Academic Achievement: A Longitudinal Replication and Extension
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College Student Binge Drinking and Academic Achievement:
A Longitudinal Replication and Extension

Excessive alcohol consumption by college students is a ubiquitous problem with potentially negative consequences, both academic and otherwise, for many students. National samples of college students demonstrate that two thirds of all students report consuming alcohol within the past month (O'Malley&Johnston, 2002). Of these students, more than half report heavy or binge drinking within the prior 2 weeks (O'Malley&Johnston). Binge drinking is often defined as consuming five or more drinks in one setting for males and four or more drinks for females (Wechsler&Isaac, 1992), although this may be somewhat arbitrary. According to Harvard's College Alcohol Study (CAS), half of the students who binge drink, do so more than once a week (Wechsler, Nelson,&Weitzman, 2000).

The evidence concerning the amount of binge drinking behavior that occurs based on year in college is inconclusive. In one study, 13.9% of first-year students reported having only one binge drinking episode in a 2-week period, whereas 14.8% of seniors reported the same behavior (Presley, Meilman, Cashin,&Lyerla, 1996). On the other end of the continuum, 3.8% of both first-year students and seniors reported having between six and nine binge drinking episodes in a 2-week period (Presley et al.). Engs, Hanson, and Diebold (1996) found, however, fewer binge drinkers among seniors than among first-year students.

Although the studies with regard to the amount of binge drinking occurring during college are not conclusive, research is consistent on the negative results of this behavior. Educational difficulties, psychosocial problems, physical harm including overdoses, sexual high-risk behaviors, and alcohol-impaired driving are some of the negative consequences of student drinking (Columbia University, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [NCASA], 1994; Perkins, 2002; Wechsler et al., 2002). These consequences impact between 10% and one third of the college population (Perkins), affecting both men and women and students across all class years (e.g., Engs et al., 1996; Presley et al., 1996).

Student Alcohol Use and Academic Performance

The NCASA (1994) has stated that "alcohol is implicated in as many as 41% of academic [End Page 715] problems and 28% of all dropouts" (p. 21). Indeed, there appears to be a dominant assumption that academic problems and alcohol use are highly related (e.g., Powell, Williams,&Wechsler, 2004; Rau&Durand, 2000). To date, however, only a relatively small body of evidence has systematically addressed the potential negative impact of excessive alcohol consumption on student academic performance in college.

Research reports and campus prevention efforts refer to, and rely on, information gathered from several national, longitudinal studies focused on college student alcohol use. Data gathered from the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey (CORE), the CAS, and the Student Alcohol Questionnaire (SAQ) document the pattern of alcohol use and consequences for thousands of college students over the past 2 decades. Within these surveys, a few questions measure academic problems associated with alcohol use. One fifth of students reported performing poorly and nearly 30% reported missing a class due to alcohol or drug use on the CORE survey (Presley et al., 1996). Engs et al., 1996 used the SAQ to measure academic problems: students answered questions regarding whether they had missed a class or received a lower grade due to drinking. Engs et al. found that males tended to experience higher numbers of academic and nonacademic problems due to drinking, and females were more likely to miss classes due to hangovers.

These studies also demonstrate a clear association between habitual heavy drinking and lower grade point average (GPA; Engs et al., 1996; NCASA, 1994; Presley et al., 1996; Rau&Durand, 2000). Findings from the CORE survey indicate students with a GPA of A drank an average of 3.3 alcoholic drinks per week, whereas students with a B drank 4.8 drinks, students with a C drank 6.1 drinks, and students with a D or F drank 9.0 drinks (Presley et al.). Results from the SAQ also suggest that...