College Students Know and Accurately Report their Alcohol Consumption

College students generally have accurate knowledge about how much alcohol they consume and they report it fairly accurately, according to Dr. Aaron White of Duke University.

Dr. White’s team conducted the research on a weekend night between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on a college campus. Breathalyzer readings and self-reported drinking data were collected from 152 college students. Estimated BACs were calculated by means of a standard formula, and the relation between actual and estimated BACs was examined.

Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence

Learn what they are and why they'’re very important.

The students’ estimated BAC levels were actually higher, rather than lower, than their actual levels. It appears that students might actually overestimate rather than underestimate their levels of consumption when surveyed in the midst of a night of drinking. The findings corroborate observations made by other researchers.

Dr. White observed that “students who are on campus on the weekend and are intoxicated have a pretty good sense of how much alcohol they’re actually consuming, which I think is very good news.”

Nevertheless, it’s important that students understand the concept of standard drinks and alcohol equivalence. That is, they need to understand what standard drinks are and that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits each contain equivalent amount of alcohol (0.6 ounces). This can help them drink in moderation.

Standard drinks of alcohol are:

  • A 12 ounce bottle or can of beer
  • A five-ounce glass of dinner wine
  • A shot (1.5) ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, vodka, etc.) straight or in a mixed drink.

There’s no drink of moderation, only behaviors of moderation.


  • Kraus, K. L., et al. Inconsistencies between actual and estimated blood alcohol concentrations in a field study of college students: Do students really know how much they drink? Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2005 (September), 29.

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