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College Students Super-size their Drinks


Updated March 06, 2006

How big is a drink? A study at Duke University found that college students pour themselves "super-size" drinks, making it likely that they are drinking more than they realize.

The study, published in the November 2003 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. found that students over-poured shots by 26 percent, mixed drinks by 80 percent and beer by 25 percent. Cup size also made a difference. The volume of alcohol poured by the students increased as the size of the cups they were given increased.

The researchers concluded that a student’s idea of a single drink is different from the amount that researchers use in their studies of college drinking. A Health Behavior News Service article quoted lead author Aaron White, Ph.D., as stating “For instance, students drinking from a keg might consider each cup full of beer, regardless of its size, to constitute one drink rather than the 12-ounce serving size specified in many surveys,”

Most of the data that we have on college drinking come from the students themselves. These new findings may throw doubt on previous estimates of campus alcohol use and abuse. White noted that “A student who indicates having consumed five drinks in one night might actually have had 10 or more standard drinks if the drinks were free-poured.”

The researchers studied 106 undergraduates at Duke University. Students answered a survey about their drinking habits, then poured water into cups in amounts that they thought were equivalent to one beer, and one shot (the amount of alcohol in one mixed drink).

Students consistently poured more than the standard amounts (12 ounces for one beer and 1.25 ounces of liquor for a shot). Students who said that they had drunk a lot of shots or mixed drinks in the two weeks prior to the study had a more steady hand, pouring drinks that were closer to the standard amount.

The study's authors concluded that "the fact that both volumes and concentrations of drinks can vary widely makes it difficult to provide the public with simple definitions of drinks that make sense in the real world.” They suggest that labeling alcoholic beverages with serving size information — a practice that is common in Australia and other countries — may help clear up some of the confusion and make people aware of their true drinking levels.

Last edited 3/5/06

Source - Health Behavior News Service article "College Students May Drink More than They Think" summarizing November 2003 study by Aaron White, Ph.D., et. al., published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

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