142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

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Relationship between college students' perception of peers' substance use and self-reported substance use

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 2:30 PM - 2:50 PM

Michael Sawdey, MPH, CPH , Division of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Resa M. Jones, MPH, PhD , Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health & Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Thomas Novotny, M.D., M.P.H. , Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Determine the association between perceived peer substance use and personal substance use among U.S. college-attending adults, ages 18-24.



Using data from the National College Health Assessment Survey II (2009), descriptive and multivariate regression analyses were performed to assess the association between perceived ‘typical’ peers’ use of seven substances and corresponding personal use in the last 30 days (N=60,863).



Overall 65% of respondents were female; 62% were <21 years. Students used 1.3 substances, but believed that their ‘typical’ peer used 5.2 substances. Perceived peers’ substance use was significantly associated with corresponding personal substance use in the last 30 days (OR range: 2.25-6.42). Additionally, the number of other self-reported substances used increased with the perceived number of substances used by peers (p=0.01).



Disparities exists between college students’ self-reported substance use and their perception of peers’ use, which likely represents a misperception of peers’ use. However, substance use behaviors appear to be associated with these misperceptions of their peers’ behavior, which suggests that changing perceptions about substance abuse may be a target for intervention.

Learning Areas:


Learning Objectives:
Describe and define how perceptions of peer substance use among college students are associated with actual self-reported substance use. Additionally, demonstrate that a dose-response relationship exists between perception of use and self-reported use.

Keyword(s): Epidemiology, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a 2nd year Epidemiology PhD student with an MPH in epidemiology. Among my academic and scientific interests are substance and tobacco use among adolescents and young adults, with an emphasis on college students.
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.