WEDNESDAY, June 29, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- The more memory blackouts a college student experiences when drinking, the more likely he or she is to suffer an injury while drinking at some time in the future, a new study says.
U.S. and Canadian researchers analyzed data collected from almost 800 undergraduates and more than 150 postgraduate students who were monitored for two years at five North American universities.
Hazardous drinking was "pervasive" on the college campuses, the researchers found. More than half of the students had had at least one memory blackout in the 12 months prior to the study; 7 percent reported at least six blackouts.
Students with the most blackouts were those ages 18 to 20, "sensation seekers," and those with the most heavy drinking days (defined as five or more drinks). "Blackouts" refer to the inability to recall events rather than the loss of consciousness as a result of too much drinking.
The overall prevalence of alcohol-related injuries was just over 25 percent, and the risk was the same for women and men.
The more alcohol-related blackouts a student experienced, the greater the risk of accidental injury. One to two memory blackouts increased the risk by 57 percent, and those with at least six blackouts were nearly three times as likely to suffer an injury.
"Our results suggest that memory blackout screening at student health services could be a useful tool in college alcohol-related injury prevention," the researchers wrote in a news release from the journal Injury Prevention, which published the study online.
In 2001, about 600,000 college students in the United States suffered alcohol-related injuries; in 2005, nearly 2,000 died of such injuries, according to background information in the news release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an overview of college health and safety.