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Alcohol Use Among UW-Eau Claire
Students Continues to Decline

RELEASED: Feb. 6, 2007

EAU CLAIRE — A recent survey found that alcohol use among University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students is continuing to decline, an encouraging trend that began in 2002.

"Fewer students reported drinking in the past month and more reported having three or fewer drinks in a typical week when compared to past surveys," said Peggy O'Halloran, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education. "The findings show that improved coordination of alcohol prevention and education programming is having a real effect on student drinking."

The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey — completed by more than 680 randomly selected UW-Eau Claire students in May 2006 — measures student alcohol and other drug use.

It's encouraging that the survey found more students are aware of campus alcohol use programs and policies, and that 20 percent of the students prefer to not have alcohol available at parties they attend, O'Halloran said.

"I've talked with students who are frustrated that people assume drinking is a major part of the college experience for all students," O'Halloran said. "These students are not drinking and they're having a great time here. They want people on and off campus to understand that most students don't live the 'party school' myth."

The survey also showed a decrease in some high-risk behaviors that often result from alcohol use, O'Halloran said. For example, 31 percent of respondents reported driving a car while under the influence, down significantly from 42 percent in 2002 and 37 percent in 2004. The survey also found that 1.1 percent of the students reported being arrested for drunken driving, below the national average of 1.7 percent.

But there also were some discouraging findings, O'Halloran said. For example, students here use alcohol at rates higher than the national average and binge drinking numbers remained the same as in past survey years, she said. Binge drinking is defined as a male having five or more drinks or a female having four or more drinks in one sitting.

"There is evidence that drinking on college campuses reflects the drinking culture of a state," O'Halloran said. "Surveys have found that Wisconsin has the highest rate of binge drinking in the country, so it's not surprising that those numbers are higher on campuses here."

The 2006 survey also found that students continue to report experiencing negative consequences as a result of their drinking, O'Halloran said. Examples include trouble with law enforcement, sexual assault, injuries and missing classes or performing poorly on tests, she said.

Other survey findings included:

  • Eighty-one percent reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days, down from 87 percent in 2002 and 83 percent in 2004. The national average is 71 percent.
  • Seventy-three percent of underage students reported consuming alcohol in the last 30 days, down from 83 percent in 2002 and 76 percent in 2004.
  • Fifty-eight percent reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks, compared to 61 percent in 2002 and 58 percent in 2004. The national average is 47 percent.
  • Sixty-four percent said the social atmosphere on campus promotes alcohol use, down from 74 percent in 2002 and 71 percent in 2004.
  • Forty-five percent said they'd done something while drinking that they later regretted, 48 percent experienced memory loss, 27 percent said they'd performed poorly on a test, and 34 percent said they'd missed a class because of alcohol use.
  • "The key measures of student drinking are moving in the right direction," O'Halloran said. "We're starting to see some positive outcomes from our efforts. But it's clear that we must continue and expand those efforts."

This semester CASE will expand peer education activities, promote alcohol-free social options for students and partner with the Bridge Campus-Community Coalition on Alcohol Issues to identify strategies to address alcohol issues communitywide, O'Halloran said.

UW-Eau Claire administers the Core Survey every other year. CASE and other campus offices and community organizations use the information to develop prevention programming, design social marketing and media campaigns, and assess the impact of prevention efforts.

For details or to request a copy of the full Core Survey report, contact the CASE office at 715-836-5110 or case@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB

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