Men, Black Women at Highest Risk for College Drinking Games

Men, Black Women at Highest Risk for College Drinking Games

Certain college students have elevated risks from participation in drinking games, according to current findings from a group of researchers from the U.S. and the Philippines.

Drinking games are recreational activities centered on the consumption of typically excessive amounts of alcohol. People who participate in these games seriously increase their chances of qualifying as binge drinkers and exposing themselves to related harmful outcomes. In a study published in February 2015 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from 10 U.S. institutions and two Philippine institutions sought to determine if specific segments of the college population have elevated chances of experiencing serious harm in the aftermath of drinking game participation.

Drinking Games

Drinking games come in various forms. In some games, an individual must complete a physical task in order to avoid alcohol consumption. Conversely, failure to complete the necessary task results in the rapid intake of a given amount of alcohol. Each task failure leads to additional alcohol intake and, since rapid drinking leads to a quick decline in fine motor skills, the odds of having to drink go up over time. In other types of drinking games, all participants must consume alcohol when a certain predictable event, such as the recurring catchphrase of a TV show, happens repeatedly over time. Whatever the specific rules of the game under consideration, alcohol intoxication is a common aim and outcome among those involved.

Participants in drinking games frequently qualify as binge drinkers by consuming enough alcohol to reach or exceed the legal definition of drunkenness in two hours or less. In turn, binge drinking is a known main contributor to seriously or severely harmful consequences associated with alcohol consumption. All alcohol bingers have increased chances of experiencing harms that include alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, physical assault, accidental injury and participation in unprotected sex. Binge drinkers also have significantly increased chances of dying unexpectedly from alcohol-related causes. In addition, people who regularly binge drink elevate their chances of crossing the threshold of heavy drinking and subsequently developing diagnosable symptoms of alcohol use disorder (alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism).

College and Alcohol Binging

On the whole, college students maintain one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the U.S. Unfortunately, binge drinking plays a prominent role on college and university campuses, and students have a fairly high level of exposure to the damaging outcomes associated with this practice. For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that almost 600,000 college enrollees in their late teens or early 20s experience alcohol-related accidental injuries each year. Almost 700,000 enrollees experience an alcohol-related physical assault, and close to 100,000 experience an alcohol-related sexual assault. In addition, 19 percent of all American college students meet the terms used to identify cases of alcohol use disorder.

Who Has the Highest Risk?

In the study published in Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the Philippines’ De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University and from U.S. institutions, including Smith College, the University of Miami, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arkansas and the University of Florida, used questionnaire data gathered from 7,409 American college students enrolled at 30 schools to help determine if certain segments of the college population have an elevated level of risk of drinking game involvement. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know if gender and racial/ethnic background are important factors in exposure to the damaging consequences of playing such games. For this reason, the study included large numbers of women, as well as relatively large numbers of African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.

In order to focus on the impact of gender and racial/ethnic background, the researchers took statistical steps to account for other drinking game-related factors such as college location, average alcohol consumption outside of a drinking game context, age, fraternity membership and sorority membership. After completing this statistical analysis, they concluded that, in terms of gender, college men have substantially higher risks for harmful drinking game outcomes than college women. In terms of racial/ethnic background, the researchers concluded that African American women enrolled in college have substantially higher risks for harmful drinking game outcomes than African American men enrolled in college.

The study’s authors note the importance of the large-scale nature of their work. They believe their findings indicate that gender and racial/ethnic background are significant factors in determining the dangers associated with playing drinking games. In addition, they urge campus administrators to consider gender and racial/ethnic background when designing campaigns designed to deter drinking game participation.

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