Lonbaken, Barbara K.; Ph.D.
Program of Human Development
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
The Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Student Retention and Lifestyle Behaviors
Major Professor: Dr. Gary Liguori
The purpose of this study was to examine the association between alcohol consumption and first year to second year retention in college students, as well as the association between students’ alcohol consumption and the lifestyle behaviors of sleep duration, physical activity, and screen time. Numerous studies have examined the drinking patterns of college students. However, research is limited on the relationship between alcohol and retention, and the relationship between alcohol and lifestyle behaviors.
This study included a convenience sample of 820 undergraduate students enrolled in two general education courses at a Midwestern university. The students completed a 25-question health survey at four time points during the semester. Retention data were obtained from the registrar’s office at the university.
Paper 1 identified patterns of alcohol use in college students and sought to determine the relationship between alcohol consumption and first year to second year retention. Significant gender differences were found in drinking among all students and in students < 21 years of age with male students reporting more drinking than female students throughout the semester. Significant gender differences were also found in binge drinking episodes among all students and in those < 21 years of age with male students reporting more binge drinking episodes than females. In addition, students ≥ 21 years reported significantly more binge drinking episodes than students < 21 years of age.
Relative to retention, drinking status was significant for first-year male students in that drinkers were 2.29 times more likely to not be enrolled second year compared to first-year male students who did not drink. In addition, binge drinking was significant for first-year male students in that binge drinkers were 1.34 times more likely to not be enrolled second year with each one unit increase in binge drinking episode. These findings suggest a relationship between drinking and binge drinking in first-year male students and retention, which has implications for institutions in their programming efforts related to retention of first-year students.
Paper 2, in addition to identifying patterns of alcohol use in college students, investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and the lifestyle behaviors of sleep duration; moderate and vigorous physical activity; and screen time, which included TV time. The significant findings related to social drinking and binge drinking were noted above.
A significant difference in moderate physical activity was found at one time point with nondrinkers reporting more moderate activity than drinkers. Moreover, significant differences were found in TV time at three of the four time points with drinkers and binge drinkers reporting more TV time than nondrinkers. These findings provide preliminary support for a relationship between drinking and TV time, but underscore the need for additional research on college students’ alcohol consumption and its association with lifestyle behaviors.