A Systematic Review of the 21st Birthday and Alcohol Consumption Literature

Christina Xidas


In the United States, college students experience the largest portion of alcohol-related negative consequences compared to other age groups1.  Some of these alcohol-related negative consequences include personal injuries, academic struggles, risky sexual behavior, social problems, and legal problems2.  Furthermore, approximately 500,000 college age students are injured and 1,700 die each year from alcohol-related consequences3.  Due to these negative consequences alcohol consumption on college campuses is a public health concern.  The quantity of alcohol consumption consumed by college students is an ongoing problem as well.  Heavy Episodic Drinking, (HED) which is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a two hour period is a common metric for problematic alcohol consumption levels4. Recent literature suggests that event specific or celebration alcohol consumption are particularly related to larger numbers of alcohol-related negative consequences. Studies have focused on events in a college students life such as 21st birthdays, have found that the quantity of alcoholic drinks consumed is high and more compared to that of the typical drinking quantity during a semester5. Neighbors et al.6 demonstrated that students drank more during the week of their 21st birthday and on their 21st birthday compared to typical drinking patterns during the semester.  Whereas individual studies have examined aspects of the relation between alcohol and 21st birthdays, a systematic review of this literature is currently unavailable. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to systematically examine the literature in regards to alcohol consumption on 21st birthdays.  This systematic review of the literature will reveal trends among college students with regards to alcohol consumption patterns and alcohol-related negative consequences. In addition, it will inform future research examining alcohol consumption on 21st birthdays.



Heavy Episodic Drinking; Celebration Drinking; 21st Birthday

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