Alcohol consumption among university students: a typology of consumption to aid the tailoring of effective public health policy

Martin Davoren, Mary Cronin, Ivan J Perry, Karl O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Elevated levels of alcohol consumption among university students are well documented. Policymakers have attempted to combat this issue at a university, national and international level. Tailoring public health policy to effectively tackle alcohol use is crucial. Using Q-methodology, the current study aims to develop a typology of alcohol consumption in the Irish university student population.
Setting: A large Irish university.
Participants: Hundreds of possible statements on types of consumption were generated from a systematic review and a set of one-on-one interviews. These were reduced to 36 statements, 6 statements which define each of the 6 previously defined consumption types. Participants were advised to scan through the 36 statements and fill the statements into a ‘forced choice, standardised distribution’. Following this, a 45–90min interview was conducted with students to illuminate subjectivity surrounding alcohol consumption. Analysis was conducted using PQ Method and NVivo software. Principal component analysis, followed by varimax rotation, was conducted to uncover the final factor information.
Results: In total, 43 students completed the Q-study: 19 men and 24 women. A typology describing 4 distinct groupings of alcohol consumer was uncovered: the guarded drinker, the calculated hedonist, the peerinfluenced drinker and the inevitable binger. Factor loadings of each of the consumer groupings were noted for type description.
Conclusions: This is the first study to propose ideal types of alcohol consumption among a university student population. Further research is required to investigate the degree to which each of these ideal types is subscribed. However, this typology, in addition to informing public policy and strategies, will be a valuable analytic tool in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011815
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Early online date15 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Nov 2016


  • Q Methodology
  • Alcohol
  • Youth
  • Drug
  • health
  • policy


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