226948 Self-reported alcohol use and perceptions of peer drinking among new Greek-affiliated college students

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stuart Usdan, PhD , Department of Health Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Renée Umstattd, PhD, CHES , Department of Health Science, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Meg E. Sheppard, PhD, CHES , College of Community Health Sciences, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Laura L. Talbott, PhD, CHES , Department of Human Studies, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Gentry McCreary, MS , Office of Greek Life, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Stephanie Baller , Department of Health Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Heavy drinking is recognized as a primary public health concern for today's college students. While first-year students represent a high-risk group for heavy drinking, they are surpassed by the excessive drinking behaviors of Greek-affiliated students. Descriptive norms of alcohol consumption are supported as predictors of drinking among Greek pledges, and the acceptability of drinking behavior (injunctive norms) can be used to predict future drinking. Therefore, this study examined the relationship between current drinking and perceived normative alcohol use among Greek pledges. New Greek pledges (n=1,331) attending a large Southeastern university completed paper-and-pencil questionnaires (fraternity, n=372; sorority, n=949) on alcohol use behaviors. Participants reported an average of 17.92 (SD=16.39) drinks per week and 73.8% indicated recent binge drinking. More than two-thirds (67.2%) felt that most/nearly all of their close friends get drunk on a regular basis and 66.5% felt that their close friends approve/strongly approve of getting drunk. Bivariate analyses revealed significant relationships between average drinks consumed per week and all normative drinking items (p<.001) for both men and women. Stepwise regression analyses explained 32.5% (p<.001) of the variance in average weekly consumption among women and 25.8% (p<.001) among men. Health Education programs utilizing social norms messaging should include true normative data, since an entire student body's norms may not accurately reflect drinking among peers for heavy drinkers (i.e. Greek students). Thus, it is important to recognize that Greek students are at higher risk even prior to college matriculation, indicating a need for more targeted social norms-based interventions with this population.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the importance of using true normative data when creating a norms messaging campaign. 2. Describe the prevalence of alcohol consumption with a high-risk group on a college campus. 3. Identify at least two ways to develop more targeted prevention messages to reduce high-risk drinking among Greek-affiliated college students.

Keywords: Alcohol, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the prinicipal investigator on the grant funding this research and have been involved in all aspects of this study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.