College Students Get More Drunk When Drinks Are Cheap

Bar discounts, special promotions lead to greater alcohol consumption, study shows

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 2, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Cheap drinks at college bars lead to more intoxicated students and more health and safety problems, new research shows.

It's not news that college students drink and the results can be injury, violence and even death. But this study focused on the impact of drink discounts at college bars and found that cheap drinks come with a high cost.

The results will be published in the November print issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are available online in advance of publication.

"It may seem intuitive that cheaper alcohol can lead to higher intoxication levels and related consequences -- such as fighting, drunk driving, sexual victimization, injury, even death -- especially among the vulnerable college student population," said Ryan J. O'Mara, a graduate research fellow at the University of Florida and corresponding author for the study, in a news release from the university.

"Nonetheless, 'drink specials' and other alcohol discounts and promotions remain a common feature of college bars in campus communities in the United States. This study's results challenge assertions sometimes made by the management of these establishments that drink discounts are innocuous marketing practices intended only to attract customers to better bargains than those provided elsewhere," O'Mara added.

In the study, the researchers collected data on 495 men and 309 women who had just left bars near a large university campus in the southeastern United States. The data was gathered on four consecutive nights during April 2008 at seven different bars. The participants provided an anonymous interview, survey information, breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) readings, and information on how much alcohol they consumed and how much they spent per unit of alcohol.

The study authors found that for each $1.40 increase in the average price paid for a standard drink, the study participant was 30 percent less likely to leave the bar with a BrAC above 0.08. In other words, higher drink prices were associated with a decreased risk of patrons being inebriated when leaving the bar, the researchers concluded.

More information

Learn more about college student drinking from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, Sept. 1, 2009

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