Academic Effects Of Alcohol Consumption Shannell Richardson Lindsay Barrow May 10,2000 Econ 312; Prof, Wolaver
Academic Effects of Alcohol Consumption Introduction: In recent years, college students are consuming alcohol at increasing rates. According to the Harvard School of Public Health CoUege Alcohol Study (1999), 44% of the students surveyed were binge drinkers and 23 % were frequent binge drinkers. Binge drinkers are often associated with a higher probability of experiencing alcohol-related problems such as violence, car accidents, injuries and the tendency to disregard academic responsibilities. Much research has been conducted concerning alcohol consumption and its effects on academics in higher education institutions. In our study, we would like to filrther investigate this issue and apply it to Bucknell University. There is a widely accepted conception of Bucknell students' drinking behavior as excessive and dangerous. The Bucknell community, including administration and staff, believe that Bucknell students have a serious problem with alcohol abuse, especially binge drinking. We believe that heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in class attendance; lower achievement on projects and tests; and inability to concentrate on class material. We intend to uncover the relationship between Bucknell students' alcohol consumption and academics. In addition, we would like to investigate whether more difficult academic toads are associated with lower alcohol consumption to assess the importance of academics versus the importance of alcohol.
Literature Review: The Core Survey of Alcohol and Drugs analyzes the patterns and consequences of substance use on college campuses over a three-year period. To ensure a diverse sample, the survey was distributed to a large, southwestern university. This survey concluded that binge drinking was associated with greater weekly drinking and a range of negative consequences. It was found that college students show particularly heavy use and abuse of substances and drinking among college students appears to be on the rise. The convicted surveys suggest that over 80% of college students drink alcohol and that 15 25% of college students engage in heavy or problem drinking. Among the consequences of heavy drinking were poorer grade point averages, increased likelihood of missing classes, and an increased probability of having hangovers. When asked if heavy drinking led to poor performance on a test or important project, or a missed a class, binge drinkers were significantly more likely to report experiencing consequences in all of these areas than were non-binge drinkers. Out of the respondents of the 1996 survey, 30.6% of the binge drinkers' school performance was affected by alcohol consumption while only 8.9% of non-binge drinkers' school performance was affected. Students who reported D and F grade point averages consumed an average of eleven alcoholic drinks per week, while those who earned mostly A's consumed only three drinks per week. The 1998 University of Kansas Survey of Alcohol Use results correspond to those of the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey. It was found that students reporting a grade point average ofD or F consumed an average of 25.3 drinks per week. This shows even more prominently that increased drinking has a negative effect on grade point averages. In addition, the study revealed that 41 percent of respondents missed class due to drinking
and 72 percent reported having hangovers. Thirty-seven percent of respondents believed that alcohol makes it easier to deal with stress. The survey also discovered that 33 percent of the respondents' studying was interrupted by others' consumption of alcohol. Theory: To demonstrate the costs and benefits of alcohol consumption related to academics, we will employ the Grossman model. According to this model, those individuals who invest less in their health early in life, will be less successful and will not be as productive as those who invest more early in their lives. Relating this prediction to our study, it can be argued that those who consume more alcohol will be less productive academically than those who consume less alcohol. We will assume that nonconsumption of alcohol is positively related to health investment and that alcohol consumption decreases the students' health capital through long-term effects. The effects of alcohol consumption in the long run include but are not limited to "liver cirrhosis and other diseases, neurological disorders, cardiovascular damage, pancreatic disease, [and] fetal alcohol syndrome"(Quick Facts about Alcoholism, 2000). The time lost to alcohol consumption and its immediate effects is shown as a decrease in the time allocated to education. These short-term effects can lead to poor academic performance, decreased present health, and disruptive social behavior. Results taken from the Core Survey (19951996) which surveyed 89,874 college students from 171 two- and four-year colleges located in the United States revealed that 59.8% of college students reported having had a hangover, 21.4% performed poorly on tests/ other projects as a result of drinking, and 30.1% missed a class because of alcohol consumption. Costs of alcohol consumption are
not limited to obstructing the drinker's academics alone. The Core Survey also found that 29% of the surveyed students were interrupted while studying by others who had been drinking and 12% reported having group activity adversely affected by others who were under the influence of alcohol. According to Facts on Tap, an organization that specializes in educating college students about alcohol consumption, "159,000 of today's first-year college students will drop out of school next year for alcohol or other drugrelated reasons.. .Almost one-third of college students admit to having missed at least one class because of their alcohol or drug use, and nearly one-quarter of students report bombing a test or project because of the after-effects of drinking or doing drugs, ..[and] One night of heavy drinking can impair your inability to think abstractly for up to 30 days, limiting your ability to relate textbook reading to what your professor says, or think through a football play"(School Daze, 2000). The long-term effects of alcohol consumption is seen through a possible decreased wage due to low academic performance while in school or to the lack of completion of one's education. We hypothesize that alcohol has negative effects on academic achievement. Individuals who consume more alcohol in a usual evening will skip more classes, spend fewer hours studying, have lower grade point averages, and experience higher levels of school-related stress. Data Analysis: A questionnaire format was used to collect the data for our study. A random sample ofBucknell students was selected to complete the survey. A total of 180 questionnaires were returned. The questions ranged from general demographic
mfonnation to more specific details about the students' lifestyle. The questions were not in the form of free response. The answers were pre-selected and the respondent was only required to mark the most fitting response according to their lifestyle and personal beliefs. The questions that were relevant to our study referred to the academic life of the student and bow it is affected by alcohol consumption. The variables we chose to examine for our study ofBucknell students' alcohol habits include: grade point average, tours spent studying, number of classes missed due to drinking, and the number of students who drink in response to school stress. We chose these variables because we believe that they will be the most effective in determining the effect that alcohol has on the academics ofBucknell students. By examining the relationship between these variables and the average number of drinks consumed per evening, we will uncover the influence that drinking has on academics. The statistical methods that we employed include: Pearson Correlation, clustered bar graphs, means plots, and independent sample t-tests. The Pearson Correlation and the independent sample t-tests were used to determine the relationships between the usual number of drinks consumed in an evening and the variables listed previously. The clustered bar graphs and means plots are used to support the results found by the Pearson Correlation and the independent sample t-tests. Our results are displayed in Table I.
T«bk 1: Correlation between Academic Achievement and Alcohol Consumption
* Significant at the 95% confidence level ** Significant at the 99% confidence level Source: Author's calculations from Econ 312 student survey
Table 1 reveals the correlation between the usual number of drinks in an evening currently and the individual's grade point average. There is a -.253 correlation between the two variables with significance at the 99% level. This statistic illustrates a weak negative linear relationship; that is as the number of drinks consumed per evening increases, the individual's grade point average decreases. This can also be recognized by looking at Figure I. On this graph, the data on the dependent axis does not represent the grade point average on a 4.0 scale, but rather the values correspond to the range of grade point averages given in the survey. A grade point average of 2.51 to 3.0 is symbolized by the value 3, the value 4 by a grade point average between 3.01 and 3.5, and grade point averages between 3.51 and 4.0 are denoted by the value 5. The means plot shows that
individuals who consume more than five drinks per evening have the lowest average grade point averages. Figure l: GPA by Usual Number of Drinks in an Evening GPA(category)
Usual drinks in an evening currently 0 drinks 1-2 drinks 3-5 Drinks 6-9 Drinks 10+ Drinks
Table I demonstrates the relationship between the number of drinks consumed per evening and the number of missed classes per semester. The test found a .340 correlation between the two variables with a two-tailed significance value of .000. Although this correlation is weak, it is significant at the 99% level and finds that as the number of drinks consumed per evening increase, the average number of classes missed per semester increases as well. Referring to Figure 2, it can be seen that individuals who drank six or more drinks per evening, missed the most number of classes per semester. Students who drank an average of 5 drinks per night or less missed no more than an average of three classes per semester whereas those who consumed 6 or mo~e drinks missed up to ten or more classes per semester. Figure 3 shows the number of hangovers
the individual experienced throughout the semester and the number of classes the student missed in a semester. Those students who experienced the most number of hangovers (seven or more) consumed the highest number of drinks in an evening (seven or more). Table I supports this relationship with a .476 correlation that is significant at the 99% level. Therefore, the number of hangovers experienced by the individual in the course of a semester is positively related to the number of classes that the student missed in a semester. Figure 2:
Missed Classes and Nightly Drinking Habits
MISSCLAS Missing never/none 1-3 times 4-6 times 7-9 times 10 + times
Missing 1-2 drinks 6-9 drinks no drinks/don’t drink 3-5 drinks 10 or more drinks Usual drinks in an evening currently
Figure 3: Missed Classes and Number of Hangovers
MISSCLAS Missing never/none 1-3times 4-6 times 7-9Times 10 + times
Missing 1-3 times 7-9 times 5.00 never/hone 4-6 times 10+times HANGOVERS
Table I shows the relationship between the usual number of drinks consumed in an evening and the student perceived level of stress. "The Pearson Correlation for this relationship is .154 with a significance of.041, which is significant at the level 95%. This statistic reveals a positive, weak correlation between the two variables; that is to say students who consume more drinks per night perceived their lives as less stressful. The graph reveals that those students who consume less alcohol per night tend to more strongly agree that their lives are stressful. We also examined the relationship between how strongly a person feels about drinking for the purpose of relaxation and how stressful they perceive their lives in an effort to provide a farther connection between drinking and
Table I examines the relationship between the usual drinks consumed in an evening and average number of hours spent studying per week. The test produced a-.102 correlation between the two variables with a significance value of. 179. Therefore, there is no significant correlation between the number of hours spent studying per week and nightly drinking habits. A number of factors influenced the data and caused the results to be statistically weak. First, the sample size that was employed was smaller than the number of participants desired for the study. Our sample only represented approximately 5% of Bucknell's student body. This may have reduced the strength of our correlations and affected the significance of our results. Secondly, there may not have been a clear understanding of the definition of studying. Students who spend more time in the lab, such as engineers, may not consider that time as studying. That time allocated towards their schoolwork may have been affected by their alcohol consumption, however it was not reported. Conclusion: The Core Survey of Alcohol and Drugs consequences of heavy drinking were poorer grade point averages, increased likelihood of missing classes, and an increased probability of having hangovers. Our findings are in congruence with the results of that survey. We have found that an individual's alcohol consumption affects the student's academic life. From our data, we can conclude that the amount of alcohol consumed by an individual has an affect on the number of classes missed in a semester, the student's
grade point average and the student's assessment of their lives as being stressful. As the number of drinks consumed in a night increases, the number of classes missed in a semester increases as well. Due to the strong correlation between classes missed in a semester and the number of hangovers experienced by the individual in a semester, we can further suggest that these missed classes were due to the student's consumption of alcohol. More causality could be established between these variables if data was available on how much alcohol was consumed the night before each class missed. The Core Alcohol study concluded that heavy drinkers were more likely to report poor performance on a test or important project than lighter drinkers. In our study, we found that heavier drinkers, students who drink more than five drinks per night, tended to have tower grade point averages than those students who consumed less alcohol in a night. However, this is not a result of poor study habits. Our data suggests that there is no significant difference in the number of hours spent studying per week by heavy drinkers and students who drink less. Our data shows that those students who consume more alcohol in a night perceive their lives as less stressful than those who drink less. Most of the respondents stated that relaxation is an important reason for people to consume alcohol. That leads us to believe that heavy drinkers reported their lives as being less stressfull because they obtain relaxation from drinking; in other words, they drink their stress away. Therefore, they do not think that their lives are as stressful than they may actually be. Whereas those students who drink less may find their lives to be more stressful because they do not use alcohol or any other form of relaxation to escape the pressures of college life.
Some things that we would like to investigate farther are the relationship between stress and the student's drinking habits and the relationship between grade point averages and drinking habits. We think that it would have been beneficial to explore the students who experienced an increase in alcohol consumption over their Bucknell career's grade point averages in greater depth to determine if their grade point averages decreased as they began to consume more alcohol. We would have also liked to discover the factors that caused the student to say that their lives were stressful: was it because they were involved in a lot of extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs, or does the majority of their stress come from academic related matters. Another correlation that we have liked to examine is the relationship between majors and nightly drinking habits. However, given the sample size used in our study, we were unable to determine if drinking habits varied with the major of the student. Alcohol consumption has a definite influence on the academic life of Bucknell students. The data found in this study can be used to aid the university in their efforts to determine the effects that alcohol consumption has on the academics of Bucknell University students. These findings can aid the university and those working on the tenpoint plan in developing programs that address the problems that result from heavy alcohol consumption and solutions to those problems. Our results could also be of assistance to the students by drawing attention to the costs of excessive alcohol consumption. This information could possibly lead them to reduce their alcohol consumption to more responsible levels.
how stressful the student perceives her life. Referring to Figure 5, it can be seen that approximately 70 percent of the students who strongly agree that their lives are stressful find relaxation is at least somewhat important in their decision to drink.
Bibliography "Quick Facts about Alcoholism." CNN interactive. Online. Internet. 4/2/00 Available: http://www.cnn.com/health/indepth.health/alcohol/index.html "School Daze." Facts on Tap. Online. Internet 4/2/00 Available: http://www.factsontap.org/collexp/stats.html "University of Kansas Survey of Alcohol Use: Pall 1998". Alcohol Task Force Survey Findings. Online. Internet. 5/2/00 Available: http://www.urc.ukans.edu/About/alcab/findings.html