Newswise — Drinking in the daytime, colloquially known as “day drinking”, is characterized by heavy alcohol consumption and is linked to other risky substance use behaviors in college students, according to a report in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Despite a lack of research on student day drinking, there is evidence that certain types of daytime drinking – such as social drinking before major sporting events, sometimes called tailgating – are characterized by particularly heavy alcohol use. However, it was unclear how prevalent and risky the broader behavior of day drinking is. The current study aimed to assess how many, and how often, students engaged in day drinking, and whether “day-drinking days” – defined as days when drinking started before 4pm - were linked to heavy drinking, negative alcohol consequences, and risky substance use behavior.

The data were from 744 full-time students at a public US university, who completed a daily web-based survey for up to two weeks in each of seven successive college semesters. Each day, students reported the number of drinks they consumed the previous day, the timeframe of drinking, and whether they had experienced any of 11 immediate negative consequences of drinking. They also reported on three risky drinking behaviors: participation in drinking games, mixing alcohol with energy drinks, and co-use of marijuana. Each semester, students were asked additional questions on their extracurricular, social, and academic activities.

Overall, 619 students reported drinking alcohol, with a collective total of 7633 drinking days. Half of these students engaged in day drinking at least once (in some cases, up to ten times) across the 98 days of survey completion. Greek life (fraternity/sorority) participants reported more day-drinking days than other students, but there were no differences in day-drinking frequency between males and females, athletes and nonathletes, or honors and non-honors students. On average, the time from first to last drink on day-drinking days was three times greater than on evening- or nighttime-drinking days.

Heavy drinking was particularly common on day-drinking days. Collectively, students drank to binge-drinking thresholds (4/5+ drinks for women/men) on nearly three-fourths of day-drinking days but on less than two-thirds of evening/nighttime-drinking days. Similarly, they drank to high-intensity drinking thresholds (8/10+ drinks) on more than two-fifths of day-drinking days but less than one-quarter of evening/nighttime-drinking days. Students who reported more frequent day drinking also tended to drink heavily more often than their peers. Day drinking was linked to other risky substance use behaviors: students were more likely to play drinking games and use marijuana on day-drinking versus evening/nighttime-drinking days, and those who day-drank more frequently also played drinking games and mixed alcohol with energy drinks more frequently than others. This may indicate that day drinking is part of a constellation of risky behaviors among heavy drinkers.

In contrast, students were less likely to reach the level of legal intoxication (based on estimated blood alcohol levels), and experienced fewer negative alcohol consequences overall, on day-drinking days than on evening/nighttime-drinking days. Future research should assess students’ risk of experiencing specific negative consequences (such as blacking out, or being assaulted) on day-drinking versus evening- or nighttime-drinking days, to clarify the level of risk posed by day drinking. Links between day drinking and medium- or long-term alcohol problems, such as alcohol use disorder or academic problems, should also be explored.

Day drinking among college students and Its association with risky substance use behaviors. B. H. Calhoun, J. L. Maggs (pages xxx).


Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research