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Table 2 Summary of research studies investigating drinking patterns of Irish and UK undergraduate students

From: Alcohol consumption among university students in Ireland and the United Kingdom from 2002 to 2014: a systematic review

Study Year Design Graduate course Period of course Sample size/Response rate Age Sex Screening tool Prevalence
Black & Monrouxe, 2014 [39] - Method was dependent on each institution (e-mail, online notice board, and social media). Students informed others of the questionnaire (i.e. snowball sampling). Medicine All medical years included 216 individuals responded/- 17-25 Men and Women Weekly alcohol consumption. 15 units or more/week 21.6 %/weekly
El Ansari et al, 2014 [29] 2007–2008 Self-administered questionnaire were provided to students during the last 10 minutes of class time. All degree programmes First-third year 3,220/80 % Mean range: 22.2–31.6 Men and Women Frequency of HEDa/past week CAGE 59.2 % - HEDa 22.4 % - problem drinking 8.8 % - alcohol dependence.
John & Alwyn, 2014 [41] - Questionnaires were distributed and returned at formal teaching sessions - Undergraduate, first year student 374 First year students 18–22 Men and Women FAST/typical week 85 % - Binge drinking occasions (8 units or more in one sitting)/typical week
O’Brien et al, 2014 [24] September 2010–February 2012 Individuals were sampled at venues leased or owned by the university at events noted from webpage listings or competition schedules. - - 2,048/83 % Mean = 19.97 Men and women AUDIT 84 % - hazardous drinkers
El ansari et al, 2013 [28] 2007–2008 A self-completed questionnaire was distributed during the last 10 minute of lectures. All degree programmes First-third year 3,706 students/80 % 24.9 years Men and women CAGE 67.2 % - HED 22.4 % - Problem drinking 8.8 % - alcohol dependence.
Partington et al, 2013 [25] March 08-March 09 Cross-sectional study – questionnaire booklet distributed either at the start or end of lectures Science or arts based programmes First-third year 770/- Median – 22 Men and women AUDIT 60.6 % - hazardous pattern of drinking: Hazardous – 40.1 % Harmful – 10.9 % Probable dependence – 9.6 %
De Visser & McDonnell, 2012 [40] - An online questionnaire investigating various lifestyle and health-related beliefs and behaviours was sent to students inviting them to complete Not specified Not specified 731/- 18-25 years Men and women Units of alcohol consumed/past week 47.5 % of women and 51.3 % of men noted exceeding their weekly unit guidelines/past week.
Gardner et al, 2012 [35] - The questionnaire was posted online and sent to students for completion. Students were advised to forward the e-mail to other students. Undergraduate students All undergraduate years 167/- 18-35 years. Mean – 21.95 Men and women Binge drinking/past week 56.2 % reported at least one binge drinking session/past week
Gunby et al, 2012 [22] 2008 –2009 Students received an e-mail inviting them to participate in the research. In addition, posters inviting students to participate were also displayed on campus. Undergraduate and postgraduate students All years 1,110/- 18-24 years Men and women AUDIT 71.2 % - hazardous alcohol consumption.
Sebena et al, 2012 [31] 2007 Students received the questionnaire to complete during class time. All first year courses First year 2,529/74 % Not specified Men and women CAGE Problem drinking: 22.1 % (CAGE score of 2 or more)
Craigs et al, 2011 [45] 2007/08 Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire electronically Undergraduate All academic years included 119/73 % Mean age – 22.87 years Men and women Units of alcohol consumed/week 32 % - hazardous drinkers/week
El Ansari et al, 2011 [30] 2007–2008 A self-completed questionnaire was distributed during the last 10 minute of lectures. Modules included: Social sciences, sport, sport development and exercise, health science First-third year 3,706/80 % 24.9 years Men and women CAGE 23.1 % - problem drinking
Heather et al, 2011 [23] 2008–2009 Cross-sectional study – questionnaire booklet distributed either at the start or end of lectures. Students registered to science based or arts based programmes. The five most popular subject areas were targeted. First, second and third year 770/- Mean – 22.3 Men and women AUDIT Positive AUDIT – 60.6 % Hazardous – 40.1 % Harmful – 10.9 % Probable dependence – 9.6 %
Beenstock et al, 2010 [20] 2008 Questionnaires were distributed at select lecture theatres. Following this, questionnaires were posted on the students online learning system, BlackBoard. Deans of undergraduate studies in the faculties of Humanities, Social Science and Agriculture & Engineering were asked to participate. Questionnaires were distributed across all years of study. 458/67 % 20 years - median Men and women AUDIT 82 % positive AUDIT. 39 % hazardous drinkers, 22 % harmful drinkers and 21 % may be alcohol dependent.
Cahill & Byrne, 2010 [32] 2008 Students who attended the Student Health Department over two days in November 2008 were asked to complete an anonymous survey on alcohol and drug use. Students from any faculty Students from any year 181/91.4 % Over half <21 Men and women Units of alcohol consumed/week 83.4 % - binge drinking in the previous 12 months. 44.8 % binge drink once weekly.
Dodd et al, 2010 [33] - Convenience sampling was utilised with the selection recruited where time for data collection was given. - First -fourth year students from one UK university 410/16 % 22.8 years – mean age Men and women Binge drinking/past week Binge drinking was reported by 65.4 % of men (5 or more units) and 52.6 % of women (4 or more units)/past week
El Ansari & Stock, 2010 [34] 2008–2009 Two cross-sectional surveys were undertaken simultaneously using a universal sampling strategy (all students invited). Data was collected at selected modules at the end of teaching sessions. Undergraduate students All academic years included 380 students: 195 male and 185 female 22.86 years – Mean Men and women Binge drinking frequency/past month 11.5 % - binge drinking 10 times or more in the last month; 15.8 % - binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row) 6-9 times in past month. 26.5 % reported binge drinking 3-5 times in the past month. 12.9 % reported it 1 and 2 times. 20.4 % reported not binge drinking/previous month.
Woolfson & Maguire, 2010 2007 The university portal was used for student to opt-in and complete the questionnaire online over a 4 week period. - - 62/96.9 % 21 years – Mean age Men and women Binge Drinking (units)/monthly 82.3 % reported partaking in binge drinking sessions (b)in the four week period of follow up.
Underwood et al, 2009 [47] 2008 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students completed the questionnaire before scheduled lectures. Absentees from class, 1st and 5th year students were contacted via internal mail. Dental undergraduate students First to fifth year dental students 384/- - Men and women Hazardous from units consumed (50 or more for men, 36 or more for women)/week. In 2008, 1.7 % of males and 2.6 % of females reported hazardous alcohol consumption last week. 0 % of men and 2.7 % of women report hazardous alcohol consumption on an average week.
O’Connor et al, 2008 [48] 2003 Questionnaires were distributed around the library and collected approximately 30 minutes later. The method was designed to capture a representative sample of the UCC student population. Undergraduate and postgraduate students All years included. 115/100 % response rate Undergraduates – 20.2 years Graduates – 44.2 years Men and women Units of alcohol consumed c/week One third (32.1 %) of the UCC undergraduates were in the risky drinking category/week.
Gill et al, 2007 [36] - Second year students were at informed about the study at the beginning of class and were asked to complete the questionnaire a week later in an adjacent classroom. Undergraduate students Second year undergraduate students registered to one university 95 20.1 years (18.1–25.3) – mean age Female only Units of alcohol consumedc/past week 70 % of individuals reported binge drinkingc one day within the previous 7 days
Norman et al, 2007 [37]   Questionnaires were completed by a sample of undergraduate students at two time-points. Theory of planned behaviour and binge drinking questions were included. Undergraduate students Not specified 94/84 % 20.1 – Mean age Men and women Binge drinkingb/past week 73.4 % - binge drinking/past week (T1) 62.0 % - binge drinking/past week (T2)
Barber & Fairclough, 2006 [60] 2001 Questionnaires were distributed to all dental students and selected law students during lectures and returned via an enclosed response box placed in the lobby area of each faculty. Dental and Law undergraduate students Each year All dental students were selected. 180 law students/-Dental:83 %, Law: 71 % Mean age: Dental students – 21.4 years, Law students – 20.4 years Men and women Alcohol use categorised to sensiblec 30 % of dental students and 40 % of Law students reported exceeding sensible levels of alcohol consumptionc/week
Boland et al, 2006 [27] 2002 A researcher distributed the surveys to students in class, outlined the aims and objectives of the research and collected the completed surveys before departing. Medical students All undergraduate years of medicine 537/63 % 19–22 Men and women CAGE 2002 – 52.5 % of medical students reported a positive CAGE score
Faulkner et al, 2006 [21] - Students living in halls of residence in a campus university in South Wales were eligible for inclusion. Questionnaires were distributed to as many halls as could be accessed and collected two days later. - - 282/47 % Mean age – 20.2 years Men and women AUDIT AUDIT scores in excess of 8 were reported by 85 % of males and 73 % of females.
Watson et al, 2006 [43] - Questionnaires were distributed at the end of lectures. Undergraduate nursing students First year (pre-registration) nursing and midwifery students 186/93 % The majority of students were aged 17-30 Men and women Units of alcohol consumed de/week 86.5 % reported having drunk alcohol on at least one occasion in the previous week. 74 % of students report drinking at levels above low risk drinking + ./week 54.7 % of students reported binge drinkinge/week
McMillan & Conner, 2003 [42] - Respondents were recruited at lectures. Undergraduate students All years were eligible for inclusion in this study A response rate of 62 % was noted. 17-54 years Men and women Units of alcohol consumed c/week 65.2 % of men and 40.7 % of women report exceeding ‘sensible’ levels/week 19.6 % of men and 1.2 % of women reported hazardous drinking/week
Snow et al, 2003 [26] - Questionnaires were completed by a convenience sample of individuals who expressed interest in participating in focus groups. Psychology, Law and Business Undergraduate first year students 300 questionnaires distributed 187 students - 62 % response rate Mean age – 20.2 years Men and women AUDIT 69.2 % of males and 62.8 % of females had a hazardous AUDIT score.
Newbury-Birch et al, 2002 [46] 1995 and 1998 Second year students followed up in final year. Questionnaires were distributed in class or group meetings for completion. Attendance was monitored and absent students received the questionnaire in the post. Undergraduate medical and dental students Second and final year 427/71-80 % - Men and women Units of alcohol consumed c/week 37.5 % of men and 9.7 % of women as second years were hazardous drinkers/week. As final years it was reported by 7.4 % of men and no women/week.
  1. aHED: consuming 5 or more alcohol drinks in one sitting over the last two weeks
  2. bBinge drinking: five pints of beer, 10 shorts or glasses of wine in a single session for men, 3.5 pints of beer, seven shorts or glasses of wine for women
  3. cExceeding sensible limits notes the WHO weekly limits of 21 units or more for men and 14 units or more for women
  4. d3-4 units/day but not exceeding 21 units/week for men. 2-3 units/day but not exceeding 14 units/week for women
  5. eOver 8 units on one occasion for men, over 6 units on one occasion for women