The contextual role of alcohol outlet density in college drinking

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2008 Jan;69(1):112-20. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2008.69.112.


Objective: The objective of the study is to examine the relationship between the physical availability of off-campus alcohol and drinking outcomes among college students.

Method: A multilevel analysis of students (N = 17,051) nested within college campuses (N = 32) was conducted. Four problem-drinking-related outcomes (i.e., average number of drinks when partying, frequency of drunkenness in past 2 weeks, 30-day frequency of drinking, and greatest number of drinks in one sitting) along with individual level covariates of drinking were introduced at the student level. The physical availability of alcohol was assessed as the number of on-premise and off-premise alcohol outlets within 3 miles of campus per 1,000 students enrolled.

Results: Higher densities of on-premise alcohol outlets were strongly related to drinking outcomes even after controlling for individual predictors of college drinking. The association indicated that the campus means for the average number of drinks when partying and the number of drinking occasions in the past 30 days were, respectively, 1.13 drinks and 1.32 occasions greater when the outlet density was 2 SDs higher.

Conclusions: Off-campus, on-premise outlet density is strongly associated with college-drinking outcomes. Given the limited number of modifiable factors that affect college drinking, on-premise outlet density represents a potential modifiable means of addressing the problem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Periodicity
  • Prevalence
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities