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Bar settings and celebrations with fraternity/sorority members associated with heavy 21st birthday drinking

Does an association exist between heavy drinking and the location and companionship present during one’s 21st birthday celebration?  Previous literature suggests that contextual factors, like location and companionship, indeed influence alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences.  A recent study explored if these contextual factors were associated with heavy drinking during 21st birthday celebrations by college students.  Four days following their 21st birthday, undergraduate students received an invitation to participate in a research study.  Consenting students that consumed at least one alcoholic drink (n=912) on their 21st birthday completed an online survey that measured alcohol use [number of drinks consumed and estimated peak blood alcohol concentration (eBAC)] as well as assessed the location of and companions at their birthday celebration.  Most participants celebrated at a bar (69%) and/or restaurant (59%), as well as with friends (89%) and/or family (49%).  Multiple regression analyses associated the following contextual factors with more drinks consumed and a higher eBAC: celebrations at a bar, greek fraternity/ sorority house, non-greek party; celebrations with fraternity/sorority members, friends, casual acquaintances, roommates.  Similar analyses associated celebrations at a parent’s house or with a romantic partner with fewer drinks consumed and a lower eBAC.  When combining all contextual factors, additional analyses revealed that a bar setting and celebrating with fraternity/sorority members to be the most influential variables on heavy drinking. Take Away: In this study, some locations and forms of companionship were associated with heavier drinking during 21st birthday celebrations by college students.  Prevention efforts that target risky drinking behaviors may consider including an opportunity for young adults to reflect on the contextual factors that influence their own drinking behaviors, including identifying protective factors that may help detour future episodes of hazardous drinking.


Rodriguez, L. M., Young, C. M., Tomkins, M. M., DiBello, A. M., Krieger, H., & Neighbors, C. (2016). Friends in low places: The impact of locations and companions on 21st birthday drinking. Addictive behaviors52, 52-57.

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