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Research Summary Detail

Residence Hall Suites May Foster Greater Alcohol Use

Author's Title: Residence Hall Room Type and Alcohol Use Among College Students Living on Campus
Author(s) Name: Jennifer E. Cross, Don Zimmerman, and Megan O’ Grady
Year of Publication: 2009
Search Related Keywords: Behavior and Operations  Crowding  Identity and Status  Multi-Family Residence  Norms  Quality of Life and Well Being  Space Planning  Structure and Systems  Student  University/College/Institute  Young and Middle-aged Adult 

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Design Issue
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This study examined the relationships between room types in residential halls and the drinking behaviors of residents at a mid-sized university in the Rocky Mountains region.


  • Alcohol consumption has become a problem in college age adolescents that has proven to have serious health consequences (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007; Hingson, Heeron, Winter, & Weischler, 2005).
  • Although social and individual factors have been examined in relationship with binge drinking on college campuses, impact of the room type has rarely been studied. Understanding how living arrangements are related to alcohol use may help reduce alcohol consumption among college students.
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Design Criteria
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Author Identified:
  • Understand that designing suite-style residential halls to promote positive outcomes (e.g., sense of community, student retention, academic benefits) may also result in more alcohol use among students.

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Key Concepts
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  • In both surveys fewer students considered themselves to be abstainers from alcohol consumption (30% in Alcohol Norms survey, 41% in Residential Assessment survey) than those who reported alcohol consumption.
  • Most students did not perceive alcohol as having a negative effect on the quality of life on their floor or within their residence halls, although abstainers were 1.62 times more likely to perceive alcohol as having a negative impact on the quality of life in their residence halls.
  • Students living in suite halls had higher odds of drinking more often, more heavily, and more when they socialize even when controlling for other variables (e.g., gender, attitudes, drinking during high school, perceptions or peer drinking) than students in standard residential halls.
  • Suites may encourage alcohol consumption due to their potential to feel more dense increasing feelings of crowding and stress; their ability to facilitate informal social gatherings; their ability to accommodate a larger number of people who gather to consume alcohol; and their potential for decreased visibility by Residential Assistants (RAs), increasing the opportunity to drink without being seen.
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Research Method
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  • Students from residence halls (10; 7 with standard rooms, 3 with suites; about 450 students per hall; 50% of standard rooms, 50% of suite rooms) at a public university in the Rocky Mountains responded to one of two surveys.
  • The Alcohol Norms survey was a web-based survey completed by a random sample of students (440; 35% response rate) from three preselected halls (two suites, one standard; approximately equal numbers from each). Students were asked to participate through letters and e-mail and were entered into a drawing for their participation. The survey included questions about room type (standard or suite), amount of alcohol consumed, frequency of use, attitude toward alcohol use, high school alcohol use, and friends’ alcohol use.
  • The second survey included data from the Residential Assessment survey administered by Educational Benchmarking, Inc. (EBI) in both fall 2006 and fall 2007. A sample of students from all residence halls were asked to participate in the web-based survey through e-mail invitations. Responses (251 in 2006, 25% response rate; 280 in 2007, 28.5% response rate) were combined for analysis in the study. The survey included questions about residence hall and floor type, alcohol use, and the effects of alcohol on quality of life.
  • The sample population of the two surveys had similar results for gender, ethnicity, and number of freshman. There was a slightly higher percentage of students living in suites versus students living in standard rooms in the Alcohol Norms survey (66%) compared to the Residental Assessment survey (50%).
  • descriptive statistics, ordinary least square regression, and ordinal logistic regression were used to analyze data.
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Limitations
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  • Although results were consistent with both surveys, the study was only conducted at one university which may have limited the generalizability of the findings.
  • Students may have selected specific residence halls based on drinking patterns, creating a self-selection bias in the results.
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Commentary
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Floor plans and data tables were included. Future research analyzing the relationship between theme-specific halls (e.g., honors, substance-free) or other residential hall factors (e.g., occupancy) and drinking behaviors and exploring the effects created by the on-campus built environment (e.g., room type) was recommended.



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Adapted From
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Author(s): Jennifer E. Cross, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Sociology; Don Zimmerman, PhD, professor, journalism and technical communications; & Megan A. O’ Grady, Applied Social Psychology program, Colorado State University
Article Title: Residence Hall Room Type and Alcohol Use Among College Students Living on Campus
Publisher: Sage Publications
Publication: Environment and Behavior
Publication Type: Refereed Journal
Date of Publication: 2009
ISSN: 0013-9165
Volume: 41
Issue: 4
Pages: 583-603