Substance intake and the prediction of Year Two undergraduate performance

D. Dutchman, P. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Objectives: This project sought to explore the predictive ability of alcohol and other drug use, alongside some relevant educational and lifestyle choice variables, for Year Two undergraduate performance. It was predicted that alcohol and other drug intake measures would be negatively related to undergraduate performance. Design: Self-completion questionnaire and IQ test, augmented by official records of Year Two academic performance. Methods: The sample comprised 46 Year Three undergraduates (31 female) at Edge Hill University with a mean age of 23.0 years (SD=5.5 years). The questionnaire obtained demographic and entrance qualification data, as well as retrospective data on study habits, physical exercise and substance intake whilst a Year Two student. A measure of fluid intelligence was obtained from Sets D and E of Ravens Progressive Matrices. With participants consent, Year Two outcome data was obtained from the university’s Academic Registry. Results: A hierarchical linear regression analysis employed mean Year Two module scores as the dependent variable (DV) to represent academic performance. UCAS points were calculated to represent entrance qualifications, and the number of alcohol units consumed on a typical drinking occasion represented consumption. Both of these variables were transformed by squaring due to curvilinearity in their relationship to the DV. To control for skewness and kurtosis the totals of correct matrices items for both sets combined was reflected and log transformed to represent intelligence, whilst inverse transformations were performed on the totals of other drugs used (excluding alcohol) whilst a Year Two student. Model 1 comprised the transformed UCAS and Matrices scores and predicted only 1.9 per cent of variability in the DV. For Model 2 the transformed alcohol unit and other drugs used totals were added. This model was significantly predictive of the DV, explaining 24.5 per cent of its variability. Both of these new variables were negatively related to academic performance. However, alcohol consumption per drinking occasion explained 14.0 per cent of performance variability, whilst other drugs used explained less than 0.1 per cent. In separate analyses, study habits showed no relationship to Year Two performance, or to alcohol and other drug intake. Physical exercise showed inconclusive results regarding academic performance due to small numbers falling into some activity level groups. Conclusions: Alcohol consumption per drinking occasion significantly predicted Year Two undergraduate performance. When transformed, the linear relationship between these two variables was significant and negative. By comparison, the relationship between other drugs used and performance was very small. The lack of relationship between alcohol intake and study habits suggests that intake levels are not indicative of commitment to study. It is possible that higher levels of alcohol consumption may compromise health and aspects of neurological functioning, with consequent impairment of academic performance. However, this would not explain so easily the relationship between low alcohol consumption and poorer performance shown by the curvilinear relationship of raw scores on these two variables. Further research in this area utilising a larger sample and contemporaneous rather than retrospective measures of alcohol consumption, would be desirable.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
EventBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Annual Conference - Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Mar 200315 Mar 2003


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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