FRIDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- With alcohol-related deaths
and injuries rising on U.S. college campuses, college officials are
trying various ways to stem the tide of heavy drinking. One effort
that targeted off-campus boozing shows some promise, researchers
A program at a group of public universities in California cut
the level of heavy drinking at private parties and other locations
by 6 percent, researchers report in the December issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The so-called Safer California Universities study included
measures such as stricter enforcement of local nuisance ordinances,
police-run decoy operations, driving-under-the-influence
checkpoints, and use of campus and local media to spread the word
about the crackdown. It's one of the first studies of college
drinking that focuses on the environment rather than on prevention
aimed at individuals, the researchers said.
"The goal was to reduce the number of big parties, which are more likely to involve heavy drinking," said lead author Robert F. Saltz, senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, Calif.
"There's this mythology about college drinking that nothing works, and that if you do try to increase enforcement, students will just find some way around it," Saltz added. "But now we have direct evidence that these kinds of interventions can have a fairly significant impact."
Eight campuses of the University of California and six campuses
in the California State University system were involved in the
study. Half the schools were randomly assigned to the Safer
program, which took effect the fall semesters of 2005 and 2006.
Student surveys were completed by undergrads in four fall semesters
(2003 through 2006), and researchers analyzed samples of 1,000 to
2,000 students per campus per year.
The surveys asked about their drinking habits -- where the
students drank, if they had gotten drunk, and if they had engaged
in binge drinking, which means having four or more consecutive
drinks in a row for women, and five or more drinks for men, in the
previous two weeks.
The students were also asked about drinking at six specific
settings, including college events, such as football games, and
parties at apartments, fraternity/sorority houses and bars.
Previous studies have shown that nearly half of U.S. students at
four-year colleges binge drink regularly. Excessive drinking by
undergrads causes more than 1,800 deaths each year, 590,000
unintentional injuries, close to 700,000 assaults and more than
97,000 sexual assaults, according to background information in the
The researchers found that students from Safer universities were
9 percent less likely to have consumed alcohol to intoxication at
the last off-campus party they attended, and 15 percent less likely
to have done so at bars/restaurants. It also appeared that less
drinking occurred at fraternities and sororities. These reductions
were considered the equivalent of 6,000 fewer incidents of
drunkenness at off-campus parties, and 4,000 fewer at bars and
restaurants during the fall semester at each school, compared with
schools that didn't implement the measures.
"A big concern has been that adding controls over one location will just drive the students to drink in other riskier places, like public parks, but I was really gratified to see that this didn't happen," said Saltz.
One college administrator praised the findings. "This study is
exciting to me," said Shirley Haberman, director of GatorWell
Health Promotion Services at the University of Florida, in
Gainesville. "Having a rigorous, research study on environmental
strategies should prove very beneficial for administrators and
practitioners on college campuses."
To learn more about alcohol abuse, see
the Nemours Foundation.