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OP17 Alcohol consumption among university students: developing a taxonomy of consumption to AID the tailoring of effective public health policy
  1. MP Davoren1,
  2. M Cronin1,
  3. IJ Perry1,
  4. K O’Connor2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of Ulster, Antrim, UK


Background Elevated levels of alcohol consumption among university students are well documented. Policy makers have attempted to combat this issue at a university, national and international level. However, approaches have failed to focus on the heterogeneous nature of alcohol consumption and the unique aspects of individual use. Tailoring public health policy to effectively tackle alcohol use is crucial. The current study aims to develop a taxonomy of types of alcohol consumer in the Irish university student population which could be useful in the design of public health policy to effectively reduce their high levels of hazardous alcohol consumption.

Methods A previous study presented a taxonomy of six types of alcohol consumer among university students; however, it was based on mainly quantitative findings. In this study which employed Q-methodology, hundreds of possible statements were generated from this systematic review and a set of one-on-one interviews. These were reduced to six statements for each of the six consumption types. Participants were advised to scan through the 36 statements and fill the cards into a “forced choice, standardised distribution”. Analysis was conducted using PQ Method software, devised for analysing Q-studies. Principal component analysis, followed by varimax rotation, was conducted to uncover the final factor information. As students distributed cards, they participated in an interview to outline how statements related to their drinking pattern.

Results In total, 43 students completed the Q-study; 19 men and 24 women of which 11 were members of a university club, 12 a society and 20 non club or society members. A taxonomy of four distinct groupings of alcohol consumer were uncovered: the guarded drinker, the calculated hedonist, the peer motivated drinker and the inevitable binger. Factor loadings of each of the consumer groupings were noted for type description. Guarded drinkers were characterised by ‘cautious, controlled enjoyment’. Calculated hedonists drank alcohol to feel pleasure, to enjoy themselves, to have fun and to become drunk. Peer influenced consumers drank “as a group … I wouldn’t go drinking by myself ”. Finally, inevitable bingers all reported hazardous alcohol consumption sharing that they drink until all the alcohol they have is gone, getting themselves into dangerous situations and forgetting parts of the night.

Conclusion This is the first study to propose ideal types of alcohol consumption among a university student population.  This typology, in addition to informing public policy decision making and targeted interventions, will also be a valuable analytic tool in future research.

  • alcohol
  • student
  • taxonomy

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