Excessive consumption of alcohol is a major public health issue in university students. The dangers of heavy drinking are well known, with both acute and long-term consequences; however, there is limited information on patterns of extreme drinking (twice over the recommended threshold for low-risk drinking), and the differential effects of heavy versus extreme drinking on immediate consequent functioning in daily life. The current study investigated drinking patterns in a sample of university students and the association of different levels of alcohol consumption with self-reported physical, cognitive and emotional function the day after the drinking episode.
Data for this study were collected from a sample of 281 University of Otago students using a 21 day Internet-based daily diary. Participants reported on their drinking the previous night and their physical, cognitive and emotional functioning on that day.
Participants reported drinking on 26.8% days overall and consuming an average of 7.2 standard drinks per occasion. Only heavy drinking (7+standard drinks for men, 5+standard drinks for women) and particularly extreme drinking (14+for men, 10+for women) predicted significant decreases in physical and cognitive functioning the next day. However, low-risk drinking (≤ 6 drinks for men,≤ 4 for women) was not associated with next-day impairment.
Findings suggest that there are adverse, intermediate consequences of excessive drinking on dimensions relevant to students' lives. Drinking within low-risk guidelines is recommended.
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