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Surveys Show Reduction in High-Risk Behaviors Relating to Alcohol Use

RELEASED: Sept. 26, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — Recent surveys indicate that University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students have shown a marked reduction in high-risk behaviors relating to alcohol use, said Jennifer Lee, director of the university's Center for Alcohol Studies and Education.

"Clearly our efforts to better educate students about alcohol-related issues and outcomes are paying off," said Lee, who shared survey information with members of the BRIDGE Campus Community Coalition on Sept. 24. "While there is still much work to be done, many students are making more responsible choices when it comes to alcohol."

Data from the spring CORE survey — a bi-annual alcohol and other drug study — compared to past CORE data shows:

  • Sixty percent of students drink three or fewer drinks in any week, considered low risk behavior. This is an improvement of 23 percent from the 37 percent reported in 2002.
  • The percent of students who report driving under the influence has declined 18 percent from 2002. In 2008, 24 percent of students reported driving under the influence compared to 42 percent in 2002.
  • Binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks per occasion, is down by 8 percent. In 2008, 53 percent of respondents reported binge drinking, down from 61 percent in 2002.
  • Alcohol use among underage students in the 30 days prior to the survey was down 15 percent. In 2008, 32 percent of underage students reported not using alcohol in the last 30 days compared to 17 percent in 2002.

In April, a division of the Minnesota Institute of Public Health selected UW-Eau Claire as a pilot site for the development of a program that takes a comprehensive look at the perceptions of an entire university community including: students, faculty, staff, community members, and local bar and restaurant owners.

Some key findings of the MIPH study are:

  • UW-Eau Claire offers many prevention and intervention programs consistent with best practices of the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
  • Seventy-six percent of community respondents acknowledge living near campus is a positive experience.
  • Eighty-seven percent community respondents living near campus report property has not been damaged and 95 percent report they have not called police because of a house party.

"Individual students and property owners may have conflicts but problems in the neighborhoods do not appear to be widespread," Lee said. "The survey indicates that most of our students are good neighbors most of the time."

While the results of the CORE survey and the MIPH study were encouraging and indicate that UW-Eau Claire's efforts are having a positive impact on student behavior, the surveys also found areas that need additional attention, Lee said.

These findings include:

  • UW-Eau Claire students — like students at universities across the country — perceive that peers are drinking more alcohol more often than they actually are. Both studies confirmed that our students, faculty, staff and community members believe drinking alcohol is part of the culture of college.
  • Underage students report relatively easy access to alcohol.
  • Forty-six percent of UW-Eau Claire faculty indicate they are not aware of the university's substance abuse policy for students.
  • Fifty-five percent of students said it is somewhat to very likely that if they drink in residence halls they would be caught; 36 percent indicated it was unlikely they would be caught.
  • Thirty-nine percent of students say they are unaware of alcohol, tobacco and other drug-related services provided by the university.

"We were not surprised by these findings," Lee said. "The findings are consistent with what we've observed. For example, we've long believed that many students assume alcohol is part of the college experience. And it's not surprising that some faculty are unaware of campus substance abuse policies since their primary focus is academics. But the survey data will be helpful as we continue to look for new and different ways to help more students reduce high-risk behaviors that relate to alcohol use."

The BRIDGE Campus Community Coalition is a group of neighbors, community leaders, law enforcement officials, health care providers, public school officials, tavern owners and alcohol distributors, who have volunteered to work together with university students, faculty, staff and administration to reduce high risk drinking and its negative effects on campus and in the community. The chairs of the coalition include UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich, Eau Claire Police Chief Jerry Matysik and Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Richard Thoune.

To discuss these and other survey findings, contact Jennifer Lee, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education at UW-Eau Claire, at 715-836-5111.

-30-

JB

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