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Survey finds binge drinking continues to decline among students

RELEASED: Nov. 23, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — A recent survey of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students suggests that the university's efforts to educate students about alcohol-related issues and outcomes are paying off.

More than 30 percent of the students who completed the alcohol and other drug survey in February reported that they do not drink alcohol. The online survey — completed by 402 UW-Eau Claire students — also found that fewer students are binge drinking, said Jennifer Lee, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education at UW-Eau Claire.

"The decline in binge drinking is an encouraging trend that began in 2002, about the same time the campus stepped up its efforts to better educate students about alcohol-related issues and outcomes," said Lee, noting that 70 percent of the students surveyed reported knowing the campus alcohol policy and 69 percent believe it is enforced. "While there is still work to be done, we are seeing more students making more responsible choices when it comes to alcohol."

Lee will share details of the survey findings during the Fall 2009 BRIDGE: Campus Community Coalition Annual Summit from 2:30-4 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Hibbard Hall Penthouse.

The 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 with university students, faculty, staff and administration to reduce high-risk drinking and its negative effects on campus and in the community. The coalition is led by UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich, Eau Claire Police Chief Jerry Matysik and Eau Claire City-County Health Department Director Richard Thoune.

In February randomly selected students at UW-Eau Claire and other UW System schools received the Alcohol and Other Drug Use Survey, which was designed to help campus and UW System leaders better understand the impact of alcohol and other drug use by students.

The online survey examined trends in alcohol and drug use, student perceptions of use and consequences of use. The results will help university leaders work with students to determine what kinds of campus health programming and services are most beneficial, Lee said.

The UW-Eau Claire survey findings included:

  • Students overestimate the amount that their peers drink. Students guessed that a typical student consumes an average of 12.6 drinks per week; student drinkers report consuming an average of 8.7 drinks per week.
  • Male students who drink consume more alcohol than female students who drink.
  • Students report that drinking by other students interferes with life on and around campus, with sleep and study interruptions being the most reported problems.

While the number of binge drinkers has declined, the survey did find that 47 percent of the students who drink alcohol reported binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in a two-hour period, Lee said.

"One of our goals continues to be to address the binge drinking because that often leads to high-risk behaviors," Lee said. "We plan to develop programs and messages specifically for students who fall into the high-risk groups for binge drinking, such as male students and students who live off campus."

Student drinkers also reported having experiences that negatively affect their health, safety and academic performance, including:

  • Fifty-six percent have experienced a memory loss.
  • Thirty-one percent have missed a class.
  • Twenty-nine percent have been hurt.
  • Twenty percent have performed poorly on a test or important project.
  • Twenty-nine percent have driven a car while under the influence.

"Students experience negative effects from their own drinking and excessive drinking by those living around them," said Lee. "CASE will continue to implement programs that focus on providing students with strategies for reducing their risk if they choose to drink alcohol."

To discuss the survey findings or the Nov. 30 BRIDGE Coalition summit, contact Jennifer Lee at 715-836-5111 or leejs@uwec.edu.

-30-

JB/DW

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