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Keywords:

  • college drinking;
  • injury;
  • screening

Abstract

Objectives: To examine the frequency of injuries reported by college students who replied affirmatively to the question, “In a typical week, how many days do you get drunk?”

Methods: In Fall 2003, a Web-based survey was administered to a stratified random sample of 3,909 college students from ten North Carolina (NC) universities. Students answered questions regarding alcohol use and its consequences. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression, controlling for within-school clustering of drinking behaviors and adjusting for other significant covariates. Adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for significant predictors (p < 0.05).

Results: Two thousand four hundred eighty-eight students reported that they are current drinkers; 1,353 (54.4%) reported getting drunk at least once in a typical week. Compared with students who did not report getting drunk at least once a week, these students had higher odds of being hurt or injured at least once as a result of their own drinking (AOR = 4.97; 95% CI = 3.47 to 7.09), experiencing a fall from a height that required medical treatment (AOR = 2.16; 95% CI = 1.36 to 3.43), and being taken advantage of sexually as a result of another's drinking (AOR = 2.59; 95% CI = 1.72 to 3.89). Students who reported getting drunk at least one day in a typical week also were more likely to cause an injury requiring medical treatment to someone else. They had higher odds of causing injury in an automobile crash (AOR = 1.84; 95% CI = 1.01 to 3.40), of causing a burn that required medical treatment (AOR = 2.85; 95% CI = 1.51 to 5.39), and of causing a fall from a height that required medical treatment (AOR = 2.02; 95% CI = 1.01 to 4.04). Getting drunk was a better indicator of “self-experienced injury” and of “injury caused to someone else” than was binge drinking, for all outcomes (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: The single question, “In a typical week, how many days do you get drunk?” identifies college students who are at higher than normal risk of injury as a result of their own drinking and the drinking of others. Future research should assess this question's effectiveness as a screening tool in campus health centers and in emergency departments.