The association between levels of alcohol consumption and mental health problems and academic performance among young university students
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Purpose: Mental health problems and harmful alcohol consumption have been found to be high among young university students compared to the general population in Australia. This research aimed to investigate the association between levels of drinking and mental health problems and academic performance among university students aged 18 to 24 years. Methods: This study used a quantitative cross-sectional design using data that were collected in 2014 as part of the Youth Alcohol Project (YAP). Participants were randomly drawn from a cross sectional sample of 6000 undergraduate students. Included in the study were only students who were within the age of 18-24, undergraduate, and internally enrolled at the main campus. A total of 2518 undergraduate students aged 18 to 24 years who were enrolled internally at Curtin University Bentley campus were randomly recruited. Data were collected through an online survey. Students were invited to participate in the study through their student email address. The email invitations coincided with the release of semester results to increase the likelihood of students accessing their emails. A further 628 students were randomly recruited through face to face intercept survey during the campus market days. Data were collected by trained research assistants. Validated instruments were used to collected data on levels of alcohol consumption, mental health, and academic performance. Results: A considerable proportion of participants (44%) reported consuming alcohol at hazardous or harmful levels. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that students who were consuming alcohol at hazardous levels were 1.2 times more likely to report psychological distress than those with lower levels of alcohol consumption (aOR 1.2, 95% CI: 1.1-1.5). In addition, being late for class (aOR 1.7, 95% CI:1.1-2.4), missing classes (aOR = 2.6, 95% CI: 1.9-2.6), inability to concentrate in class (aOR = 2.6, 95% CI: 1.9-3.4), and inability to complete assignments (aOR = 3.5, 95% CI 2.0-6.0) independently predicted for moderate or hazardous alcohol consumption. Conclusion: The study shows that a considerable proportion of undergraduate students at university consume alcohol at hazardous or harmful levels. In addition, high levels of alcohol consumption are associated with poor academic performance and mental health outcomes among students. The results of the study warrant multi-strategy interventions that focus on policy, organisational, educational, environmental and economic strategies that will help to reduce alcohol related harms among university students.
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