Research Article

Drinking among medical students: a questionnaire survey.

BMJ 1989; 299 doi: (Published 01 July 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;299:19
  1. D. J. Collier,
  2. I. L. Beales
  1. Department of Physiology, Medical College of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London.


    To assess the prevalence of drinking among medical students a questionnaire on smoking, exercise, drinking, and weight was distributed among the students available. A total of 260 replies were received from an estimated available population of 350 students (134 men and 126 women). The mean alcohol consumption obtained by a quantity-frequency measure was 20.5 units/week for male students and 14.6 units/week for female students. Retrospective diary reports showed mean (SE) consumptions of 18 (2) units/week for men (n = 134) and 11 (1) units/week for women (n = 126). Consumption among the men closely matched consumption among men matched for age in the general population. Women, however, drank more than women matched for age. Male and female medical students exceeded the suggested maximum for their sex in equal proportions. Quantity-frequency data showed that 31 (23%) men drank over 35 units/week and 28 (22%) women drank over 21 units/week. Of the 59 students exceeding these limits, 51 responded positively to a standard screening questionnaire for alcohol abuse. Forty students reported that they might have a drinking problem, and 138 reported that alcohol had affected their academic performance at some time; 17 of these were affected frequently. The students suggested sensible maximum consumption figures for health education. Smoking was associated with heavy drinking, especially among the women. These results suggest that some medical students are compromising their future health and their academic performance through excessive drinking.