Recent poll finds college grads are more likely to drink alcohol

Higher incomes are also an important indicator of whether a person drinks.

Miranda Taylor

It’s not just the side effects of the alcohol college students are drinking today that will follow them long after college is done.

According to a Gallup poll released July 30, college graduates are more likely to drink alcoholic beverages than any other educational demographic.

“Let’s go get drunk,” “let’s party” and “so-and-so has a kegger,” are things University of Minnesota junior Mae Kindler of the Student Network for Abuse Prevention said she overhears frequently on the bus around campus.

Of Americans aged 18 and older, 79 percent of college graduates “have occasion to use alcoholic beverages” as opposed to totally abstaining from them, according to the Gallup poll.

That’s compared to 58 percent of high school graduates who imbibe.

Toben Nelson, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University, in part attributed this difference to more exposure and access to alcohol through social situations during the college years.

A recent study he co-authored through the University’s School of Public Health showed U.S. colleges and universities do not adequately enforce and implement the National Council for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism College Drinking Task Force’s recommendations for combating unsafe college drinking habits.

According to a 2007 Boynton Health Service report, over the course of 30 days, 70 percent of University students will have drank alcohol.

This number is consistent with nationwide survey results addressing the drinking habits of Americans with “some college.”

Surprisingly, the heaviest drinkers in the college community are those who are the most educated about the risks involved in alcohol consumption, said Nelson.

Even among recently instated policies and laws ranging from the social host ordinance in February to Check BAC at the start of the 2009 fall football season, University experts agree that students are still drinking.

Andrea Ahneman, the graduate student director of SNAP and a third-year graduate student pursuing a degree in community health education, said, “It’s very individual, whether alcohol use is a problem for one person versus another.”

But if the purpose of college is to achieve good grades, Boynton’s data would argue that studies could be a problem for students who drink regularly. It showed that the more often a student drinks at the University, the more their grade-point average declines.

Students at the University who do not drink average a GPA of 3.31, while students who drink three to five times a week average a GPA of 3.09.

Provided alcohol-indulging college students keep their GPAs high enough to graduate, it is likely they will have set themselves up to make more money than those lacking a degree.

Matt McGue, a University Regents professor of psychology specializing in substance abuse, wrote in an e-mail that post-college, people generally tone down their drinking habits.

This, he added, is not by any means an endorsement for college drinking.

“College binge drinking can have many untoward immediate consequences even if it does not cause later problem drinking,” he reminded.

Drunk driving, alcohol poisoning and accidents resulting from intoxication can all result in dire consequences for students in the here and now.

While drinking intensity may lessen after graduation, the number-one indicator that an American drinks is an income of $75,000 or more a year, according to Gallup’s poll.

Almost as likely to be drinkers as those with high incomes are atheists, agnostics and those who practice no religion or a non-Christian religion.

Across all income brackets, education levels and religions, the amount Americans drink has remained fairly consistent in recent years, despite the fact that a larger number of Americans have been found to be drinking overall.