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Indiana University Succeeds in Cutting Down College Drinking with Multi-Tiered Effort

Posted in Underage Drinking

Indiana University took a multi-tiered approach to curb binge drinking among students, a program that has been successful over the last two and a half years. Freshmen living on campus had significant drops in the average numbers of drinking consumed per week, in the percentage of people who drank at least once a week in the last year, and in the percentage of students who engaged in binge drinking during the previous week.

The program at IU addressed the problem at the individual level (through a mandatory online class), at the peer level (through training for resident assistants or RAs), and at the environmental level (with educational campaigns combining community and university resources).

Dong-Chul Seo, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the University’s School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, said that a multi-tiered approach seems to be imperative for a successful program. He added that in 2002, the task force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that the culture of drinking must be changed to reduce heavy drinking on college campuses, and that individuals, peers, and communities must be involved.

The study compared freshmen who lived on campus with non-freshmen who lived off-campus. The non-freshmen were only exposed to the environmental interventions, such as posters and other educational materials that promoted responsible drinking campaigns.

The researchers found that among freshmen, the average number of drinks per week declined by 15.9 percent; for non-freshman, there was a 7.5 percent decrease. The percentage of students who drank at least once a week declined by 17.5 percent for the freshmen and 6.7 percent of non-freshmen. The percentage of students who participated in binge drinking decreased by 12.2. percent for freshmen but only 1 percent for non-freshmen.

Seo said that while these results are encouraging, there are still some areas of concern. For example, the freshmen didn’t change their perceptions that drinking helps them connect with their peers or allows people to have more fun. The non-freshmen also generally thought that drinking was a form of stress relief and that it helps connect peers.

Seo said that more research is needed to look into the perceived benefits of drinking and how they affect drinking behavior.

Source: Science Daily, Attacking the Drinking Culture on College Campuses from Different Directions, November 11, 2010