Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines among Post-secondary Students


Véronique Charbonneau, B.P.H.E – Laurentian University/Sudbury & District Health Unit
Alain P. Gauthier, PhD, Principal Investigator Laurentian University
Joëlle Martel, MHP, Principal Investigator – Sudbury & District Health Unit
Diana J. Urajnik, PhD, Principal Investigator – Laurentian University
Julie Dénommé, BSW – Sudbury & District Health Unit
Sandra Laclé, RN, MScN – Sudbury & District Health Unit
Marc Lefebvre, MA – Sudbury & District Health Unit
Dar Malaviarachchi, MSc – Sudbury & District Health Unit
Isabelle Michel, MA – Collège Boréal
Nathalie Thistle, RN, BScN – Sudbury & District Health Unit


The authors would like to thank Alissa Palangio of the Sudbury & District Health Unit for her assistance with the data analyses, as well as the Sudbury & District Health Unit’s Health Promotion Division for their contribution to practice recommendations.

This project was funded by a Louise Picard Public Health Research Grant (Principal Applicants: Alain P. Gauthier (LU), Diana J. Urajnik (LU), and Joëlle Martel (SDHU)).

This project was also supported by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation Youth Internship Program. (Principal Applicants: Alain P. Gauthier (LU) and Sandra Laclé (SDHU) – Youth Internship Program Recipient: Véronique Charbonneau (LU/SDHU)).

Contact for more information

Alain P. Gauthier, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Human Kinetics
Laurentian University
705. 675.1151, ext. 1071

 Sandra Laclé, MScN
Director, Health Promotion
Sudbury & District Health Unit
705.522.9200, ext. 231


Charbonneau, V., Gauthier, A.P., Martel, J., Urajnik, D., Dénommé, J., Laclé. S., Lefebvre, M., Malaviarachchi, D., Michel, I., Thistle, N. (2014). Canada’s low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines among post-secondary students. Sudbury, ON: Sudbury & District Health Unit.

Le sommaire de ce rapport est disponible en français.

Fact sheet

Heavy alcohol consumption is one of the most challenging issues facing institutions of higher education; harmful use or misuse can lead to the degradation of the on-campus environment and affect the quality of education. Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) released Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRADG).

Recommendations within these guidelines state that women should not exceed two alcoholic drinks per day, 10 per week, and that men should have no more than three alcoholic drinks a day, 15 per week. For both sexes, an extra beverage is allowed on special occasions.

The objectives of this project were 1) to assess trends in alcohol use amongst post-secondary students in the City of Greater Sudbury; 2) to assess their awareness of the LRADG; and 3) to identify prevention strategies from which students could benefit.

Key findings

A total of 1,829 students completed the survey. The majority of respondents attended Laurentian University (n=1,518). The mean age was 22.8 years old and 68.5% (n=1,247) of respondents were between the ages of 19 and 24 years. Seventy-five percent (n=1,360) of the respondents were female.

Ninety-two percent (n=1,677) of the students reported consuming alcohol in the past 12 months. Based on valid cases, forty-seven percent (n=711) of respondents drank in excess of at least one of the LRADG measures in the past year (Daily recommendations: 28.8%; Weekly recommendations: 9.0%; Binge drank regularly: 41.3%). A greater percentage of men, students between the ages of 19 and 24, Caucasians and students living in residence exceeded daily, weekly, and binging limits.

Fifteen percent (n=278) of students had seen or heard of the LRADG in the past. The preferred means to receive information about the LRADG were ‘through the media’ (32.3%; n=576), and ‘electronically’ (31.7%; n=567).

Conclusions and recommendations

Our results support the need to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol in post-secondary institutions in the City of Greater Sudbury. Students, administrators, and health promoters/educators all have a responsibility in implementing strategies and initiatives to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harms. The key to success is to create a campus where responsible drinking behaviours are the social norm, where policies are in place to reduce risks and support students in engaging in healthy behaviours, and health messaging is tailored appropriately for the target audience. Only then will a culture of moderation be embraced.

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This item was last modified on May 7, 2024