College Drinking: Top Five Risk Factors

Last Updated Nov 28, 2009 11:02 AM EST

I'm sure I'm not the only worried parent who wonders what sort of teenagers are more likely to end up drinking in college? More than 599,000 Risk factor of heavy college drinkingcollege students are injured each year because of drinking and 1,700 of them die.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, students put themselves at a higher risk for alcohol abuse by the choices they make when selecting a college. Here are the top five college drinking risk factors:

Division I schools. Students who attend universities with prominent Division I sports teams are more likely to drink.
Geography. I found this drinking risk factor the most curious: College students attending schools in the Northeast and North Central regions drink more. Also students who live in rural areas or small towns are heavier drinkers.

Freshman. High school teenagers, who are college-bound, drink less than those who don't pursue a college degree. That trend abruptly ends after high school. College students drink more heavily than their peers who don't continue their education. In a shockingly short period of time, college freshmen can become heavy drinkers, which helps explain why about a third of freshmen don't return for their sophomore year.

Greek presence. Fraternity and sororities have tried to distance themselves from the Animal House stigma, but colleges tend to have more problem drinking where the Greek system dominates.

Living in dormitories. Researchers suggest that students who live in dorms face a higher risk of alcohol abuse. Students who choose off-campus housing drink less and students who live with their families drink even less.

So who drinks the least? Students who attend these schools:

  • Two-year colleges
  • Religious colleges
  • Commuter schools
  • Historically black colleges
What can parents do to reduce the odds that their college students will binge drink or otherwise abuse alcohol? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has some suggestions on how parents can talk to their children about the dangers of college drinking. On the site you can also search what the alcohol policies are of individual colleges.