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In addition, group-housing-based samples of college students must be quite large in order to attain accurate national representation because there is great heterogeneity in the types of student populations served in these institutions.Finally, the drinking behavior of young adults, particularly college students, often is characterized by episodic drinking, which may be more difficult to capture adequately on surveys that rely only on the measure of average alcohol consumption over a short period of time.

The analyses presented here are based on data from the 2001–2002 NESARC, which was designed and sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and fielded by the U. The NESARC sample represents the civilian, noninstitutionalized adult population of the United States, including residents of all 50 States and the District of Columbia (Grant et al. It includes people living in households, military personnel living off base, and people living in the following group quarters: boarding or rooming houses, nontransient hotels and motels, shelters, facilities for housing workers, college quarters, and group homes.For example, the definition of young adults conventionally includes all people ages 18–24.Yet people who fall into the younger part of this group (i.e., those ages 18–20) are below the legal drinking age of 21.These items were taken directly from the survey and had a reference period of the last 12 months.The only exception is the daily volume of alcohol (i.e., ethanol) consumption.Underage drinking remains a major public health concern.

To better understand the scope of this problem, the data presented here are given for the total young adult population as well as for the subgroups of people ages 18–20 and 21–24.This measure was derived by NIAAA using a somewhat complex algorithm that summed beverage-specific volumes across the four beverage types.More information on computational details of the data analysis as well as access to public use files of the data are available at In NESARC, one standard drink is assumed to contain 0.6 ounces of ethanol. More than half of young adult men exceeded the recommended daily drinking limit, as did two-fifths of young adult women. According to the NESARC data, in 2001–2002 over three-quarters of young adults ages 21–24 were current drinkers, as were nearly two-thirds of those ages 18–20, despite the fact that the legal drinking age is 21.2005)—most notably alcohol-related traffic fatalities (Yi et al. College students continue to stand out from other young adults because of their relatively high rates of heavy drinking, even though their average daily alcohol consumption generally is lower than that of their noncollege peers (Johnston et al. Until recently, however, college students have been a difficult population to study.