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Mizzou Study Shows That Possessing a Fake ID Results in More Drinking by Underage College Students

July 24, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan Daniels, 573-882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — For college students under the age of 21, possessing a fake ID is a tell-tale sign of underage drinking.

With the upcoming collegiate school year approaching, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have completed a study examining fake ID ownership and heavy alcohol consumption by freshman and sophomore students. The team of psychologists discovered an increasing number of students obtained fake IDs during their first two years of college and that ownership resulted in more drinking during that period of time. Over the course of four semesters, fake ID ownership increased from 12.5 percent to 32.2 percent among students younger than the legal drinking age.

The study also revealed that students belonging to fraternities or sororities were more likely to own a fake ID.

“The biggest finding is that having a fake ID is a risk factor for additional drinking — drinking that might not otherwise be occurring,” said Kenneth J. Sher, professor of clinical psychology in the College of Arts and Science's Department of Psychological Sciences. “The other piece is how ubiquitous it is — how many underage drinkers have a fake ID. Basically, being a heavy drinker predicts the likelihood that someone will obtain a fake ID, and having a fake ID predicts that someone will be a heavy drinker.”

Julia A. Martinez, a psychology graduate student, and Patricia C. Rutledge, a former assistant research professor, worked with Sher on the study. They collaborated with the MU Midwest Alcoholism Research Center on the project that included more than 3,700 students. The researchers assessed the drinking habits of participants in the summer prior to entering the university and during their first four semesters. The psychologists specifically asked about the number of occasions that students drank five or more drinks in a setting, which is considered binge drinking, felt high on alcohol or got drunk on alcohol. Questionnaires were analyzed and participant responses were scored based on levels of alcohol consumption. The researchers also tracked the rate of fake ID ownership and membership in fraternities or sororities.

Martinez said that at each evaluation, possessing a phony ID was associated with the perception that alcohol was easy to obtain.

The study, “Fake ID Ownership and Heavy Drinking in Underage College Students: Prospective Findings,” was published in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

“Currently, around the nation people are concerned about underage drinking,” Martinez said. “One of the big issues is how are these kids accessing alcohol. One of the ways to get alcohol is with a fake ID, and that has been understudied.”