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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Gender differences and the effectiveness of a social norms campaign to reduce college drinking

Barry P. Hunt, EdD1, Stuart Usdan, PhD2, Amy J. Thompson, Ph D3, Jennifer Cremeens, MS2, and Ryan J. Martin, MS4. (1) Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 9805, Starkville, MS 39762, 662-325-7230, bhunt@fsnhp.msstate.edu, (2) Department of Health Sciences, University of Alabama, Box 870311, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0311, (3) Adult, Health, Counseling and Vocational Education, Kent State University, 316 White Hall, Kent, OH 44242, (4) Health Sciences, University of Alabama, 111 East Annex, Box 870311, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487

A recent study found that 44% of college students are binge drinkers and 19% are frequent binge drinkers (Wechsler et al., 2002). According to Hingston et al. (2005), an estimated 599,000 college students were hurt or injured and 474,000 students engaged in unprotected sex because of alcohol. One widely implemented, yet heavily debated, environmental prevention strategy employs marketing campaigns using social norms theory. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a social norms marketing campaign to reduce heavy drinking among first-year college students. The Core Survey was administered to first-year college students at a large, public university in the southeast during the spring semester to provide baseline data to develop messages for the marketing campaign. During the following fall semester a social norms campaign was implemented displaying the following messages, which were not gender-specific: 2/3 of freshman drink less than once a week, and 72% freshman have less than 4 drinks a week. The Core Survey was administered again the following spring semester to evaluate program's effectiveness. Findings showed little impact on drinking behaviors of male students. However, results indicated that following the campaign there was a significantly greater proportion of female students drinking less than once a week (x2=7.153, p=.007). Findings also show a significantly greater proportion of female students who consumed fewer than 4 alcoholic drinks per week (x2=6.011, p=.014). Results from this study suggest social norms based health messages should be more targeted to specific subpopulations of college students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant(learner) in this session will be able to

Keywords: College Students, Alcohol Use

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Issues Pertaining to College Health

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA