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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
Johnston, R M (2009). Effects of Alcohol on College Students. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 12. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 26, 2023 .

Effects of Alcohol on College Students
Ryan Johnston
Psychology University of Central Missouri

Sponsored by: PATRICIA MARSH (pmarsh@ucmo.edu)

The purpose of this study is to examine whether the amount of alcohol consumed on a weekly basis effects the grades of college students. Fifty participants will be surveyed (25 male and 25 female) from the University of Central Missouri. Students will be given a survey of their drinking habits. They will also be asked to answer questions regarding things that would affect their grades. The hypothesis is the higher the level of alcohol consumption, the lower the grades will be.

Effects of Alcohol on College Students

            Drinking while enrolled in college is a fairly common. When most people think of college alcohol is one of the things that is identified in the experience. The thought of college is something that brings a lot of excitement and stress. Most students select a school that they know is going to be a “fun” experience, rather than the academic education they may receive somewhere else. The parties, drinking, and any other activities that occur during the college years may have unseen damages on their grades they receive each semester. The purpose of this research study is to examine whether alcohol levels affect the grades of the students at the University of Central Missouri.

The study will not involve any actual alcohol consumption, outside of what the participants may do on their own outside of the study, but rather responding to questions on a survey that are designed to measure the amounts of alcohol participants consume weekly compared with various other information. The majors of each student will be analyzed as well to examine whether there is any correlation that may exist among them. The age of the person is an obvious piece of information that would impact the responses. For example if you are 21 you may consume more alcohol than someone who is not, because you have easier access to it. Other factors such as use of illegal drugs, will not be measured in this survey, they are beyond the scope of this study. They would need to be involved in a completely different study. Things like why the students miss class when they miss the class, as well as the levels of alcohol they consume when they drink, and how often they consume alcohol weekly. These are just some examples of the question that will be seen on the surveys given to the students from the university. This information will be elaborated more on in the materials section of the paper.

            Research regarding drinking and college students is greatly varied. There have been many studies that conducted on the health problems associated with drinking. In a study Croll, Davies and Major (2008), which measured underage drinking in a private college 43.1 percent reported drinking at least one beer per week, while 53.6 percent reported drinking five or more beers per week. Croll, Davies and Majors found that only 4.4 percent of the students reported drinking wine at least once a week, and only 6.3 percent of those students drank five or more glasses. While these students are all consuming certain levels of alcohol, the effect it has on grades is still unclear from this study. At this private college only 2.7 percent of students reported drinking liquor, but of those, 37.5 percent reported having five or more drinks on average (Coll, Draves, & Major, 2008). This study shows that drinking in college is not an unusual thing. It is not an abnormal event for a student to have a few drinks throughout the week, but how does it affect their grades?

         Working, while enrolled in school, is something that is impacting on the grades of college students. Their grade point average (GPA) is affected by the number of hours worked each week. Furr and Elling (2008) found that 81 percent of students surveyed felt that those working 20 or more hours a week would have a negative effect on their grades. This study also found that students who work 20 or more hours each week were more likely to report binge drinking (Miller, Danner, & Staten, 2008). This shows that drinking is influenced by many factors, and can affect students throughout their college careers.

            According to Yusko, Buckman, Pandina and White (2008) Americans consume the largest amounts of alcohol between the ages of 18 to 25 (Yusko, Buckman, Pandina, & White, 2008). This comes as no surprise with the ages of 18 to 25 coincides with the transition from high school and into college. Yusko et al. (2008) it found that heavy drinking is not uncommon for college students. Yusko et al. (2008) found that an estimation of 30 percent of college students had drank consumed alcohol within the last month, and almost 70 percent of those drinkers report engaging in heavy drinking. Yusko et al. (2008) defines heavy drinking as having 5 or more drinks at one time in the 2 weeks before the survey. Along with the consumption of alcohol it was also found that of these students 19.5 percent reported using marijuana, and 8.2 percent reported using other illicit drugs. These statistics show that drinking is not the only form of impairing substances that could be affecting the grades of the students. Drinking rates have remained about the same for the past two decades (Yusko et al., 2008). This study shows that the use of alcohol is common, and has been for many decades. With many students using the substance, it is important to examine potential effects on the student grades.

            The 21st birthday is a day of great celebration for most within the United States. With college being a normal part of most people’s lives, today’s 21st birthdays are usually celebrated in college. Ruteledge, Park, and Sher (2007) found that most people who drink before the age of 21 will most likely drink for their 21st birthday (Rutledge, Park, & Sher, 2007), and will most likely consume a large amount of alcohol (5 or more drinks). Also, women consume significantly fewer drinks than males do on their 21st birthdays (Rutledge, Park, & Sher, 2007). This is an important factor to examine. This could be a potential confound in the study if it is a constant in female drinking compared to male drinking. With the research including an equal number of male and female students, information regarding female students should be lower, per drink, than that of the males. It will be interesting to see how this affects the overall grades of the students who are taking the survey.

         Besides the impact that drinking has on grades it can also have more severe consequences. In 2001 a study done estimated that 1,349 college students died from drinking and driving accidents and 1,717 died from other alcohol related unintentional injuries a year (as cited in Azzi, Flett, Goldstein, Wall, Hewitt, & Wekerle, 2008). Approximately 5,000 college students die each year from alcohol related deaths (Araas & Adams, 2008). Drinking can also become a problem to the health and well being of the students, as well as negatively affecting their grades.

         Another group that should be examined is student athletes. These students have more pressure on them since they have school, and their selected sports. Lewis (2008) found that athletes often times drink more alcohol than non athletes (Lewis, 2008). Therefore student athletes are an at risk population for the negative effects of drinking alcohol during the college years. In a study of 140 colleges nationwide, it was found that student athletes were more likely to partake in binge drinking in a given week than the non-athletes (Lewis, 2008). The use of alcohol being associated with the student athlete in college began to get more attention in the 1980’s. During this time they began to report the use of alcohol and illicit drugs by these athletes. This came as a shock during this time since the athlete was seen as a more structured member of the society in colleges (Lewis, 2008).

            Drinking not only hurts the grades of college students, but also can have the potential to get them hurt as well. Hingson et al. (2005) reported that 1,700 students die from unintended results from alcohol related accidents; almost 700,000 are assaulted by someone under the influence of alcohol; and 97,000 are victims of sexual assault or rape (Hingson, Heereen, Winter, &Weschler. 2005). Hingson et al. (2005) also reported that 25 percent of these students reported having negative effects to the academic success as well (Hingson, Heereen, Winter, &Weschler. 2005). This study shows many of the negative effects of drinking while in college. It shows the other side of the potential negative effects by talking about the physical harm it can produce. Hingson et al. (2005) shows that the reported drinking in college is not all fun and games like most students would like to think.

Todd (2008) found that the social norm theory has a much more influential impact on the drinking habits of college students compared to biological, personal, or cultural influences (Todd, 2008). This theory suggests that drinking is normal in college because the students feel that if they do not drink they will be isolated from the group and be alone. This social norm theory has served as a good model for the drinking habit of college students (Todd, 2008).

         How often college students drink is something that most collegiate students will be interested in. the impact this drinking has on their grades is something that they should be aware of as well. By doing this study the information provided will give a basis of knowing how the drinking habits are affects the grades of students. The levels of alcohol they consume weekly may be seen to have the greatest impact on their grades throughout their college years. But other factors like major, sports, and work schedule, may have an impact on the results as well.



            The study consisted of participants from the University of Central Missouri. There were 50 students surveyed (25 male and 25 female). The average age is 19.44. The ethnic background is 82 percent Caucasian and 18 percentAfrican American. Students were recruited from various locations on campus by handing out flyers to get student interest for the study. All information was kept anonymous, and was shredded, to ensure the anonymity after the study.


            The materials used for this study will be a test that has a sample of question to test how much each student drinks. Questions will ask things like, “How often do you drink on a weekly basis?” There will also be some Likert Scale questions asking about alcohol consumption. There will be questions on their major, age and GPA. They will be provided with 30 minutes in which to take the survey. Also they will be given a pencil in which to take the survey with.   

The questions in the survey measure the typical amount of alcohol consumed on a weekly basis. The survey assessed drinking during an average week, so it did not ask to compile a list on an extensive amount of information. Some questions asked were regarding to the students major and GPA thus far in their college career. Also they were asked about the average consumption of alcohol on a given week. The information will be separated by gender and compiled to determine if whether there can be any correlation between the student grades and alcohol consumption.


            The scores of the times the students drink per week, GPA, sex, major, age, and grade level was analyzed to determine whether correlations existed with the amount of alcohol consumed. There was significant correlation between GPA and how often the students drank per week, and it was negative, r(50)=-.45, p<.001. The effects of the times a student drank per week and the GPA were compared using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). A main effect was found for people who drank six to seven times per week when compared others, f(50)=.34, p<.05. When a Tukey’s Post Hoc test is ran it is found that the people who drank six to seven times per week is significantly different with a lower GPA than the people who drank less than that per week, p<.05 (Table 1).


            The purpose of this study was to examine the effect that alcohol has on the grades of college students. The hypothesis was that the more often a student drank the lower their GPA will be as a result. The data supported this hypothesis. The more alcohol that was consumed on a weekly basis the lower their grades were as a result.

            Since this test was just done at one college in the Midwest it does not represent the whole community of collegiate students. This was just a small sample size from the University of Central Missouri. Future researchers should take into account that a bigger sample size from multiple schools may give you a better diversity of students who drink more or less and have different success in the academic lives. The low diversity in races is something that may be a problem with the research as well. Research in the future should have a wider range of races to find if this effects the findings as well. Since the survey was anonymous the answers may not always be honest. Research in the future should make this survey not anonymous so integrity of the answers can be determined more easily.

            The findings in this study were consistent with the findings in previous studies. Hingson et al. (2005) found that 25 percent of the students in his study reported negative effects on their grades from drinking (Hingson, Heereen, Winter, &Weschler. 2005). The more alcohol that was consumed the lower the grades of the students were in this study as well. If alcohol did not play a role in the lower grades more participants who drink more often would need to be taken into account.

            Studies on college students and drinking in the past were just done on how often these students drank and not on the effect it has on their grades. In this study the effect it has on their grades was measured as the main component. Lewis (2008) did a study on the drinking habits of students who play team sports, but did not examine the effects it had on their grades (lewis, 2008).




Araas, T., & Adams, T. (2008). Protective behavioral strategies and negative alcohol-related            consequences in college students.. Journal of Drug Education. 38, 211-224.

Coll, J., Draves, P., & Major, M. (2008).  An examination of underage drinking in a sample of       private university students. College Student Journal. 42, 982-985.

Flett, G., Goldstein, A., Hewitt, P., Wekerle, C., Wall, A., Azzi, N. (2008). Perfectionism and       

binge drinking in Canadian Students. Journal of American College Health 57, 249-256.

Hingson R., Heeren T., Winter M., Wechsler H. Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and            morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18–24: changes from 1998 to 2001. Ann Rev  Public Health 2005; 26: 259–79.

Lewis, T., (2008). An explanatory model of student-athlete drinking: The role of team leadership                social norms, perceptions of risk, and coaches attitudes towards alcohol consumption..          College Student Journal. 42, 818-831.

Miller, K., Danner, F., & Staten, R. (2008). Relationship of work hours with selected health           behaviors and academic progress among a college student cohort. Journal of American   College Health. 56, 675-679.

Rutledge, P., Park, A., & Sher, K. (2008). 21st birthday drinking: Extremely extreme. Journal of    Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 76, 511-516.

Yusko, D., Buckman, J., White, H., & Pandina, R. (2008). Alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and        performance enhancers: A comparison use by college student athletes and nonathletes.          Journal of American College Health, 57, 281-290.


























Table 1

Means and Standard Deviations

Drinking Per Week

Mean GPA














6-7 1



Note. 1 This group is significantly different from all other groups. *p<.05 **p<.01 ***p<.001















Figure Caption

Figure 1. The GPA of each student compared to the score they put on the Likert Scale question on how often they drank.





















Submitted 05/04/2009
Accepted 05/28/2009

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