There is considerable interest in university student hazardous drinking among the media and policy makers. However there have been no population-based studies in Australia to date. We sought to estimate the prevalence and correlates of hazardous drinking and secondhand effects among undergraduates at a Western Australian university.
We invited 13,000 randomly selected undergraduate students from a commuter university in Australia to participate in an online survey of university drinking. Responses were received from 7,237 students (56%), who served as participants in this study.
Ninety percent had consumed alcohol in the last 12 months and 34% met criteria for hazardous drinking (AUDIT score ≥ 8 and greater than 6 standard drinks in one sitting in the previous month). Men and Australian/New Zealand residents had significantly increased odds (OR: 2.1; 95% CI: 1.9-2.3; OR: 5.2; 95% CI: 4.4-6.2) of being categorised as dependent (AUDIT score 20 or over) than women and non-residents. In the previous 4 weeks, 13% of students had been insulted or humiliated and 6% had been pushed, hit or otherwise assaulted by others who were drinking. One percent of respondents had experienced sexual assault in this time period.
Half of men and over a third of women were drinking at hazardous levels and a relatively large proportion of students were negatively affected by their own and other students' drinking. There is a need for intervention to reduce hazardous drinking early in university participation.