CONTACT: STEVE PARROTT
5 Old Capitol
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-0557; fax (319) 335-0558
Binge drinking rate at UI unchanged from 1993 to 1997
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- More than 63 percent of University of Iowa students
engaged in some form of binge drinking in 1997, according to survey results
released today by the UI. The percentage of UI students who said they binged
in 1997 (63.1 percent) was virtually unchanged from the number who reported
binging in the 1993 survey (63.8 percent). Both surveys asked students
to report on their alcohol consumption during the two weeks before they
completed the survey.
The UI figures were made public Thursday in conjunction with the release
of a national survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health.
The Harvard Alcohol Study found that binge drinking continues largely
unabated on American campuses, based on its second survey of 116 nationally
representative universities and colleges. The UI participated in both the
1993 and 1997 surveys.
"The national figures and our own figures on binge drinking provide
vivid confirmation that we have a serious problem with the number of college
students who are drinking to get drunk," said UI President Mary Sue
Coleman. "This is a public health problem. We know that students who
drink to get drunk are less likely to succeed academically. Just as important,
they are causing personal, social and economic harm to non-binging students
and our community at large."
The Harvard study was based on the responses of 14,521 students in 1997
and compared to those of 15,103 students surveyed in 1993. The study defined
heavy episodic or binge drinking as the consumption of at least five drinks
in a row for men or four drinks in a row for women during the two weeks
before the students completed the questionnaire.
The new national survey, which appears in the September issue of the
Journal of American College Health, found that 42.7 percent of students
binged one or more times during the two-week period covered in the 1997
survey, a slight decrease from 44.1 percent in 1993. Half of that group,
20.7 percent, said they frequently engaged in binge drinking (three or
more episodes in the two-week period). That compares with a frequent binge-drinking
rate of 19.5 percent in 1993. At the UI the percentage of frequent binge
drinkers increased from 28.2 percent in 1993 to 34.8 percent in 1997.
There was one bright sign in the national survey. The number of students
who abstained from drinking alcohol increased from 15.6 percent in 1993
to 19 percent in 1997, according to Henry Wechsler, director of College
Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health. The number of abstainers
also increased at the UI from 6 percent in 1993 to 9.4 percent in 1997.
However, drinkers experienced more alcohol-related problems in 1997
affecting their health, education, safety and interpersonal relations,
Wechsler noted. These included driving after drinking, getting into fights,
damaging property, getting injured, getting in trouble with the police,
having unplanned and unprotected sex, missing classes, and getting behind
Just as important, the vast majority of non-binge drinking students
- 78.8 percent - continue to be negatively affected by the disruptive behavior
of binge drinkers. Those "second-hand" effects include being
the victim of physical and sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances, having
property vandalized, and having sleep or study interrupted. The total number
of UI students affected by second-hand effects was not available for the
1997 survey. In 1993 some 87 percent of non-binging UI students reported
experiencing those second-hand effects.
"I hope that this latest study will encourage more students, faculty,
staff and community members to support the efforts of our Stepping Up Coalition
to reduce binge drinking and its second-hand effects," Coleman said.
The Stepping Up Project, a community and campus coalition, is part of
a national effort to reduce high-risk drinking among college students.
The $10 million program, which includes 10 college campus communities,
seeks to reduce binge drinking and the many problems associated with it,
including alcohol poisoning deaths, car crash fatalities, injuries, suicide,
sexual assault and other physical violence, property damage, academic failure
and other harmful behavior. The program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation and administered by the American Medical Association.
Noting that the 1997 survey was completed before the Stepping Up Project
began its efforts, Coleman said, "We know that reducing binge drinking
is a long-term project, but we are optimistic that we are on the right
road. Our fraternities have decided to quit serving alcohol at their houses,
we have increased non-alcohol-related activities for our students, we have
community members looking at alternative activities for junior high and
high school students, and we have completed a community-wide survey on
alcohol attitudes, use and support for alcohol policy changes.
"We welcome additional ideas and support from the entire community,"