Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24

J Stud Alcohol. 2002 Mar;63(2):136-44. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2002.63.136.


Objective: This report estimates the numbers of 18-24 year old United States college students who annually experience alcohol-related deaths, injuries and other health problems.

Method: We examined traffic and unintentional injury deaths in 1998 reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We also examined results of national coroner studies, Department of Education college enrollment data, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), the CDC National College Health Risk Behavior Survey and the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Survey (CAS). All survey participants were ages 18-24: 6,930 college and 12,394 noncollege respondents in the NHSDA survey; 3,077 college students in the CDC survey; and 12,217 full-time 4-year college students in the CAS. Based on the number and proportion of 18-24 year olds enrolled in college, data on alcohol involvement in injury deaths among 18-24 year olds and survey responses, we calculated the numbers of 18-24 year old alcohol-related injury deaths and other health problems.

Results: We estimate that over 1,400 students aged 18-24 and enrolled in 2- and 4-year colleges died in 1998 from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. According to surveys conducted in 1999, in the preceding year, over 2 million of the 8 million college students in the United States drove under the influence of alcohol and over 3 million rode with a drinking driver. Over 500,000 full-time 4-year college students were unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol and over 600,000 were hit or assaulted by another student who had been drinking.

Conclusions: There is an urgent need for expanding prevention and treatment programs, to reduce alcohol-related harm among U.S. college students and other young adults.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / mortality*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Students* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities* / statistics & numerical data