Newswise — Heavy drinking by students is common during the college years and is associated with potentially serious consequences. While student drinking tends to fluctuate throughout the calendar year, with marked increases during celebrations, most studies of the issue are limited to the academic year itself, relatively few focus specifically on special heavy drinking events, and even fewer include drinking during summer break and subsequent school return. This study uses longitudinal data to address these gaps.

Researchers evaluated alcohol-related characteristics among 462 college freshmen (290 females, 172 males) eight times during 55 weeks, beginning in January 2014. This time period included a campus festival, summer, and school return. Baseline predictors of drinking quantities over time included demography, substance-use patterns, as well as environmental and attitudinal characteristics. Product-Moment correlations evaluated relationships between baseline characteristics and subsequent quantities, and simultaneous entry regression analyses evaluated which characteristics most robustly predicted usual and maximum drinks over time.

Results demonstrate important changes in students’ drinking during the calendar year, including expected large increases during the month of a one-day festival, large decreases over the summer, and resumption of relatively high quantities upon return to school. More specifically, maximum drinks per occasion increased 18 percent from the early spring to the campus festival period, decreased 29 percent in the summer, and increased 31 percent on school return. The authors believe these findings underscore the importance of longitudinal research regarding college drinking practices, given that data from one period or one type of predictor alone did not adequately describe campus drinking patterns during the year.