Survey Says 21st-Birthday Binge Drinking Rampant

Ever wondered why Paper Trail is filled with so many stories of students doing dumb things?


If you ever wondered why Paper Trail is filled with so many stories of students doing dumb things, take a gander at this University of Missouri survey (.pdf) that reports 34 percent of men and 24 percent of women who imbibed on their 21st birthdays drank 21 alcoholic drinks or more .

While this study starts to explain a lot of stupid behavior, my gut feeling leads me to believe that these numbers are incredibly high and that a certain amount of self-selection and exaggeration was involved.

My doubts:

1. The school that was surveyed, the University of Missouri, has "large Greek and athletic systems, midwestern location, and predominantly non-Hispanic white students" who are "associated with heavy drinking rates," which the researchers admit is very likely not representative of the country as a whole.

2. This is a self-reported survey, so let's not forgot how it was really cool to brag how much you drank in college to all your friends—and similarly to a defenseless researcher.

3. Can the average person even remember what happened after the 15th drink?

4. According to this blood alcohol concentration chart, if a 140-pound woman drank 10 drinks, her BAC would be .32, a potentially lethal number (for reference, you are legally intoxicated in most states at .08 BAC). Now imagine 24 percent of birthday drinking women drinking 21 and more. Wouldn't there be a crazy epidemic of alcohol poisoning on college campuses?

I don't think many people dispute that drinking is a huge problem on college campuses, but the jury's still out on the exact extent. And if you do plan to binge drink, my colleague Nancy Shute has some advice.