Binge drinking before and after a COVID-19 campus closure among first-year college students

Erin E. Bonar, Michael J. Parks, Meredith Gunlicks-Stoessel, Grace Lyden, Christopher J. Mehus, Nicole Morrell, Megan E Patrick

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43 Scopus citations


Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with reports of increased substance use. College students are a population of concern for high risk binge drinking and their behavior may be particularly impacted by COVID-19 campus closures. Therefore, we examine first-year college students’ binge drinking soon after their university's pandemic-related suspension of in-person operations. Methods: Students from a single campus (N = 741; age: M = 18.05, SD = 0.22) completed one assessment in April-May 2020 post-campus closure (March 2020) including theoretically-informed measures (e.g., drinking motives, norms) and two items of self-reported pre- and post-closure binge drinking frequency, the focus of these analyses. Results: About half of students consistently reported not binge drinking pre- and post-closure; 6.75% reported a consistent frequency of binge drinking pre- and post-closure. Many (39.41%) reported lower 30-day binge drinking post-campus closure compared to their pre-closure reports; few (4.18%) reported higher 30-day binge drinking frequency post-campus closure. Students reporting lower binge drinking post-closure showed differences in coping, social, and enhancement drinking motives and isolation. Students reporting greater post-closure binge drinking reported higher perceived drinking norms and were more likely to be in Greek life. Conclusion: This study demonstrates self-reported patterns in binge drinking among first-year college students at the point of COVID-19 campus closures. Pandemic-related college closures may have been a temporary environmental intervention on this high-risk behavior for some students. Although many students were not binge drinking, some continued binge drinking after closure and may benefit from preventive interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106879
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Jul 2021

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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


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