Event-Specific Drinking Among College Students

Clayton Neighbors, David C. Atkins, Melissa A. Lewis, Christine M. Lee, Debra Kaysen, Angela Mittmann, Nicole Fossos, Lindsey M. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


College represents a period of risk for heavy drinking and experiencing unwanted consequences associated with drinking. Previous research has identified specific events, including holidays (e.g., New Years), school breaks (e.g., Spring Break) and personally relevant events (e.g., 21st birthdays), that are associated with elevated risk of heavy drinking and negative alcohol-related consequences. The systematic evaluation of relative risk offers insights into event-specific drinking and an empirical basis upon which to consider allocation of limited prevention resources. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to provide a comparative index of drinking across a wide range of holidays and compare holiday drinking to 21st birthday drinking. Participants were 1,124 students (55% female) who had turned 21 within the previous three weeks in 2008 and provided 90-day retrospective reports of their drinking using the Timeline Follow-back. Results based on a hurdle mixed model for blood alcohol content revealed several holidays that stand out for elevated drinking, including New Year's Eve and July 4th, whereas other holidays appear more similar to weekend drinking, such as Spring Break (approximately last week of March) and graduation (mid-June). Drinking on holidays or special days was substantially lower than drinking on 21st birthdays. Results are discussed in terms of practical applications for targeted intervention efforts on college campuses toward specific events where elevated drinking is known to occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-707
Number of pages6
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • 21st birthday drinking
  • Event-specific drinking
  • Timeline follow-back


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