Inside Iowa State
September 10, 1999
Survey: Most ISU students use alcohol responsibly
by Steve Sullivan
The majority of Iowa State students do not participate in binge drinking, but perceive that most of their peers do, according to a university survey.
Survey respondents overestimated the number of drinks their peers have when they drink. Students reported that they averaged 3.8 drinks when they partied, but estimated their peers averaged over five drinks when they partied. The groups that reported the heaviest drinking were the most incorrect in their perceptions of their peers' drinking.
A telephone survey of 524 undergraduate students ages 24 and younger who lived in Ames or neighboring communities was conducted in October and November 1998. The survey was conducted by trained professional staff from Iowa State's Survey Section of the Statistical Laboratory.
ISU's Alcohol Education Committee commissioned the survey to answer three questions:
- Do traditional students overestimate the amount of drinking in which their peers engage?
- What is the "norm" of alcohol use among traditional undergraduates?
- Do drinking (and other) behaviors vary by place of residence or gender for traditional undergraduate students?
The ultimate goal of the survey was to help develop prevention programs.
The survey shows that while most students use alcohol responsibly, a minority of students are problematic users. Students misperceive the norms surrounding alcohol use on this campus. These misperceptions may lead students to use alcohol more liberally than they otherwise would. Social marketing campaigns to correct these misperceptions may be useful in lowering alcohol use by students.
Finally, the survey found that specific groups may benefit from targeted prevention programs. Men, those who live in Greek housing, and juniors tend to drink more heavily and frequently than other groups. These groups also tend to misperceive peer drinking the most, indicating that they may respond well to a social norms approach to preventing alcohol abuse.
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