Page last updated: August 17, 2017

The dynamic association between alcohol use and consequences over the first two years of college

College students experience myriad negative consequences from alcohol misuse. The strength of the association between level of alcohol use and consequences may change across the initial years of college, as students develop tolerance or learn to avoid negative effects of drinking.

A study employed time varying effect models (TVEM) to examine whether the changing strength of associations between weekly quantity of alcohol use and the odds of an alcohol consequence that week would decrease in strength from the first week of freshman year to the end of sophomore year, and to identify any gender differences in the association between use and consequences over time.

812 college student drinkers completed 36 assessments of alcohol use and consequences across two years (every other week). TVEM models revealed that the proportion of those for whom alcohol use led to a consequence declined across time. Aside from the first few weeks of college, the association between alcohol use and odds of a consequence was consistently stronger for women than men. Among men, the odds of a consequence declined relatively steadily over time. Among women, the strength of this association was more dynamic.

This study provides initial insight into the complex relationship between drinking and consequences. The authors state that future research focusing on understanding factors that explain the decreasing association between use and consequences with time can contribute to college student alcohol education and interventions.

Source: A time-varying effect model of the dynamic association between alcohol use and consequences over the first two years of college. Merrill JE, Kenney SR, Barnett NP. Addict Behav. 2017 Oct;73:57-62. doi: 10.1016/j. addbeh.2017.04.022. Epub 2017 Apr 28.

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