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UK student alcohol consumption: A cluster analysis of drinking behaviour typologies

Craigs, Cheryl L; Bewick, Bridgette M; Gill, Jan S; O'May, Fiona


Cheryl L Craigs

Bridgette M Bewick

Jan S Gill

Fiona O'May


Objective: To assess the extent to which university students are following UK Government advice regarding appropriate consumption of alcohol, and to investigate if students can be placed into distinct clusters based on their drinking behaviour. Design: A descriptive questionnaire study. Setting: One hundred and nineteen undergraduate students from Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. Method: An online survey, which included a diary to record daily alcohol consumption over the previous week, was completed during the winter of 2007/08. Cluster analysis was used to classify students into subgroups based on comparable alcohol-drinking characteristics. National recommended sensible drinking behaviour guidelines in terms of total weekly alcohol intake, maximum daily alcohol intake, number of alcohol-free days and estimated blood alcohol levels were used to compare drinking behaviour the previous week by age, sex and cluster group. Results: Consuming weekly alcohol levels considered hazardous was common (58%) with nearly 70% of responders binge drinking at least once over that period; most students (80%) were, however, following the government’s recommendation for two consecutive alcohol-free days per week. No significant differences in drinking behaviour by sex were found, but binge drinkers tended to be younger. Four distinct alcohol-drinking behaviour clusters were identified based on alcohol consumption frequency and quantity. Only students in the non or light drinkers group all remained within national recommended guidelines for weekly intake and alcohol-free days. Conclusion: Students who consume alcohol are commonly drinking daily and weekly alcohol levels in excess of national sensible drinking guidelines; most students, however, abstain from alcohol on at least two consecutive days. The four distinct drinking clusters suggest that students would benefit from targeted interventions. In particular, personalization of interventions to reflect the distinct patterns of drinking behaviour could increase intervention effectiveness.


Craigs, C. L., Bewick, B. M., Gill, J. S., & O'May, F. (2012). UK student alcohol consumption: A cluster analysis of drinking behaviour typologies. Health Education Journal, 71, 516-526.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012-07
Deposit Date Feb 18, 2015
Print ISSN 0017-8969
Electronic ISSN 1748-8176
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 71
Pages 516-526
Keywords Alcohol; cluster analysis; students; higher education; alcoholism and education
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