A new study has warned that the biggest risks for alcohol-related injuries are excessive drinking and a sensation-seeking attitude among college students.
The study examined the "dose-response" effect of quantities and frequencies, and estimated that more than 500,000 college students suffered alcohol-related injuries in 2001.
"In the United States, most - as in 70 percent - of college students have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, and 40 percent of students have engaged in heavy drinking in the past two weeks," said Marlon P. Mundt, corresponding author for the study.
He added: "More than 1,700 U.S. college students aged 18-24 died from alcohol-related injuries in 2001. Approximately 2.8 million U.S. college students drove under the influence of alcohol in the past 12 months, and 600,000 U.S. college students were hit or assaulted by a student who was under the influence of alcohol."
The study examined the combined "dose-response" effects of drinking quantities and frequencies on college alcohol-related injury risk.
Initially, the researchers surveyed 12,900 college students seeking routine care in five college health clinics on alcohol use and other health risk behaviours.
Of those, 2,090 who exceeded at-risk levels of alcohol consumption participated in face-to-face interviews, which assessed previous 28-day alcohol use, as well as alcohol-related injuries in the preceding six months.
"Compounding the risk of multiple days of heavy drinking, students who drank 8+ drinks for males or 5+ drinks for females on at least four days per month, for example, every weekend, were five times more likely to be injured than those who did not frequently cross the 8+ M/5+ F drinking limit. In addition, students who scored high on sensation-seeking disposition also experienced greater risk for alcohol-related injuries," said Mundt.
He added that prior research had shown that a sensation-seeking disposition is linked to alcohol-related injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms, and also linked to alcohol-impaired driving.
"College administrators, parents, and clinicians need to focus their intervention efforts on these students - 'frequent extreme heavy drinkers' - who score high on sensation-seeking disposition. These are the students at high risk for injury. Quantities alone, or frequency of consumption alone, do not show the whole picture. A drinking pattern of frequent extreme intoxication is key, as it escalates injury rates rapidly," said Mundt.
The results will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.