New Study Published in Journal of American College Health Shows Significant Reductions In Serious Alcohol-Related Consequences Among College Students

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 General News
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug. 11 A new study showssignificant decreases in serious alcohol-related problems among students atthe University of Virginia (UVa) -- including drinking and driving,alcohol-related injury/fighting, taking sexual risks and missed classes -- asa result of a six-year campus-wide social norms marketing campaign. Thestudy's findings are in stark contrast to national statistics on collegedrinking, which show no change or even slight increases in self-reportednegative consequences during a similar time period.

Social norms research has shown that students are influenced byperceptions, whether right or wrong, and tend to behave according to what theyperceive to be normal. So, if they perceive a negative attitude or behaviorto be normal, they are more likely to engage in that behavior or adopt thatattitude. Social norms marketing is a comprehensive approach that includesgathering credible data and communicating accurate information about theprevalence of healthy behaviors and attitudes among peers.

To correct misperceptions and change behaviors on a college campus, socialnorms campaigns give students accurate information about the prevalence ofhealthy behaviors and attitudes among their peers. At UVa, previous surveyshad shown that students grossly overestimated the amount and frequency ofcampus drinking, and underestimated the frequency of protective behaviors,such as stopping a friend from driving drunk.

Visit to access aphoto of lead authors and MP3 of Dr. James Turner discussing the study.WHAT: The social norms media campaign used a series of highly-visible posters, table tents and student presentations correcting the students' perceptions of heavy campus drinking. Information was also provided on norms regarding protective behaviors. An anonymous Web-based survey assessed the impact of the campaign on 10 negative consequences of drinking. Approximately 2,500 students were surveyed annually over the six-year period. Key findings include: -- The likelihood of experiencing none of the 10 negative consequences increased by 113%. -- Some negative consequences as a result of drinking include fighting, having unprotected sex, damaging property and missing classes -- Over 9,000 more students experienced NO consequences related to alcohol during the study -- The chances of experiencing multiple negative consequences decreased by 57%. -- First-year students reported a 22% decline in the odds of experiencing multiple negative consequences, and a 24% reduction in the odds of having an estimated blood alcohol content (eBAC) greater than .08 the last time they partied. -- An estimated 1,972 fewer students were injured by alcohol; 1,511 fewer drove under the influence; and 553 fewer engaged in drinking-related unprotected sex in 2006 compared to 2001, respectively, as a result of the campaign (based on a total undergraduate population of 12,500). The study, "Declining Negative Consequences Related to Alcohol Misuse Among Students Exposed to Social Norms Marketing Intervention on A College Campus", was published in the July issue of the Journal of American College Health. WHY: Alcohol use among college students causes numerous social, academic and health-related problems and has been a significant concern for many years. Yet, despite publicity, interventions, and other outreach campaigns, prevalence rates of high-risk drinking and related consequences have changed little since 1993. WHO:

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