Study Analyzes Motives for Graduate Student Alcohol Consumption
January 14, 2020

Graduate students most frequently drink for social reasons and to enhance their mood, according to a new study published by a team of University of Maryland School of Public Health faculty and students. 

Behavioral and community health researchers, Professors Amelia Arria and Kenneth Beck; Senior Faculty Specialist Kathryn Vincent Carr and Faculty Assistant Angie Barrall along with first author and UMD doctoral alumna and Pennsylvania State University Postdoctoral Fellow Hannah Allen, analyzed a survey of 2,683 masters and doctoral students who drank within the past month from two large universities in the mid-Atlantic.

Excessive drinking is a significant public health concern among young adults. An extensive amount of research aims to understand why and where college students consume alcohol, but little research has focused on motives and context for drinking among graduate students.

Published in the journal, Addictive Behaviors, the study found that compared with undergraduate students, graduate students in the survey drank less—drinking an average of two drinks a day for seven days over a month-long period. And as opposed to undergraduate students who might often drink at parties, the analysis revealed that graduate students typically drank at home and with small groups of friends. Drinking was less common in graduate students who were married or had children. 

But, the motives for drinking were similar for both undergraduate and graduate students: fun. 

While enhancement and social reasons were the primary motivators to drink, the study suggests that graduate students who are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety may use alcohol as a coping strategy. 

Since about a quarter of graduate students meet the criteria for a mental health problem, the researchers suggest that future studies continue to study graduate students who use frequent drinking to cope with symptoms of mental illness. They urge the study of substance use among this group, and particularly the effects of substance abuse on academic, health, and social outcomes.

Related Links

Addictive Behaviors: Situational context and motives of alcohol use among graduate student drinkers

Related People
Kathryn Vincent Carr, Amelia Arria, Kenneth H. Beck, Angie Barrall