School spirits: Alcohol and collegiate sports fans

Toben F. Nelson, Henry Wechsler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


While studies have addressed alcohol use and related problems among college athletes, little is known about the drinking patterns of non-athletes who are sports fans. This study examines the relationship between alcohol use and interest in collegiate sports on two levels. First, do sports fans in college binge drink more and exhibit more negative alcohol-related outcomes than other students? Second, do colleges with large numbers of sports fans have higher rates of heavy drinking and accompanying secondhand effects affecting other students? The study analyzed the responses of a nationally representative sample of students who completed questionnaires in the spring of 1999 regarding their extracurricular activities and substance use. The responses of 3445 student sports fans were compared to those of 8405 students who were not sports fans. More sports fans drank alcohol, engaged in binge drinking, had a heavy drinking style and reported alcohol-related problems than nonfans. The percentage of sports fans at a school was associated with binge drinking rates and the secondhand effects. The implications for those working with college athletics and for alcohol prevention personnel are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Alcohol
  • Athletics
  • Binge drinking
  • College
  • Fans

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