August 11, 2008

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

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A new study shows significant decreases in serious alcohol-related problems among students at the University of Virginia (UVa) -- including drinking and driving, alcohol-related injury/fighting, taking sexual risks and missed classes -- as a result of a six-year campus-wide social norms marketing campaign. The study's findings are in stark contrast to national statistics on college drinking, which show no change or even slight increases in self-reported negative consequences during a similar time period.

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

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

   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:   The lead study authors are available to discuss the social norms          approach, study results and implications for other universities:           -- James C. Turner, MD, Executive Director of the National Social             Norms Institute, Professor of Internal Medicine, University of             Virginia, Charlottesville, VA          -- Jennifer Bauerle, PhD, Director of the National Social Norms             Institute          -- H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Hobart and             William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY     CONTACT:  Jennifer Corrigan, 732-382-8898 or [email protected]   

Visit to access a photo of lead authors and MP3 of Dr. James Turner discussing the study.

University of Virginia

CONTACT: Jennifer Corrigan, +1-732-382-8898, [email protected]

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