To compare alcohol use among US and Canadian college students.
Results of the 1999 College Alcohol Study and the 1998 Canadian Campus Survey are compared.
One hundred and nineteen nationally representative US 4-year colleges and universities in 40 states and 16 nationally representative Canadian 4-year universities.
Randomly selected students under 25 years (12 344 US and 6729 Canadian).
Self-reports of alcohol use and heavy alcohol use.
The prevalence of life-time and past year alcohol use is significantly higher among Canadian students than US students (92% versus 86%, 87% versus 81%). The prevalence of heavy alcohol use (typically consuming five or more drinks in a row for males/four or more for females) among past-year and past-week drinkers is significantly higher among US students than Canadian students (41% versus 35%, 54% versus 42%). In both countries older [corrected] students and students living at home with their parents are less likely to be heavy drinkers; students who report first drunkenness before the age of 16 are more likely to be heavy drinkers in college.
Programs aimed at students' heavy alcohol use should target freshman at entry or earlier. Since students living with their parents are less likely to be heavy drinkers, parents may play a potentially important role in prevention efforts. The patterns of drinking in both countries may be influenced by the legal minimum drinking age. However, the relationship is complex and must be viewed in the context of other variables such as chronological age.