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University of Iowa News Release


June 22, 2011

Survey shows sharp drop in UI student binge-drinking rate

University of Iowa students reported an 8-percent drop in the binge-drinking rate between spring 2009 and spring 2011—the lowest level in a decade and a notable about-face following years of steady and rising high-risk drinking rates on and near campus—according to findings of the 2011 National College Health Assessment. 

Nearly all of the negative consequences of binge drinking decreased and protective factors increased. Between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of students who reported doing something they regretted after drinking decreased 24 percent, and 29 percent fewer students physically injured themselves because of alcohol.

Additionally, more students are drinking in ways that keep their blood-alcohol content below the legal limit when they drink. The survey saw a 22 percent increase in students who stayed beneath the legal limit (.08) the last time they drank.

The data also shows a 24 percent decrease in driving after drinking and a 36 percent drop in the number of students who said they were involved in a physical fight. And 38 percent fewer students reported having sex under the influence of alcohol without giving consent, while 17 percent fewer students reported having sex under the influence of alcohol without getting consent.

Just over 83 percent of students reported using alcohol in the 30 days prior to taking the survey, which is the lowest level in 20 years of data collection.

The data comes from the National College Health Assessment II, a research survey provided by the American College Health Association to help schools collect data about students' habits, behaviors and perceptions on the most prevalent health topics. At the UI, students in Health and Physical Activity Skills classes were invited to take the anonymous survey, garnering a response rate of 98 percent (representing 875 students).

A one-page summary report at shows data on high-risk drinking among UI students dating to 1991. The last significant drop in the binge drinking rate--a decline of 7 percent--occurred between 1999 (when the UI adopted a policy prohibiting alcohol in Greek houses) and 2001.

The latest data shows an 8 percent drop, from 70.3 percent reporting risky drinking behaviors in 2009 to 64.5 percent reporting such behavior in 2011. The 8 percent is derived by subtracting the new number from the old, and then dividing the result by the old number.

"To put this latest change in perspective, the drop in high-risk drinking represents almost 1,200 fewer students engaging in high-risk drinking in the two week period preceding the survey than if the rate had stayed the same as in 2009," said Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for student life and a leader of campus-community efforts to combat unsafe and illegal alcohol consumption by students.

Rocklin said the data doesn't indicate which of the many changes implemented by the UI and the community may have contributed to the drop, although he suspects all of them collectively played a role.

"I'm sure that setting the minimum bar entry age to 21 after 10 p.m. in Iowa City contributed significantly," he said. "I'm also confident that at least some of the university actions we have taken in the past two years contributed."

Some of those actions included:

* Creation in fall 2009 of a Red Watch Band program, which provides students with "alcohol bystander training" to intervene on behalf of other students engaging in risky behavior (more at

* Creation in spring 2010 of SOBAR (Students Organizing for Better Alcohol Responsibility) to encourage responsible, legal drinking among students.

* Implementation in summer 2010 of Iowa City's 21-only ordinance and mailing to parents of UI students an intervention handbook.

Additionally, in fall 2010, the AlcoholEdu program was expanded to include all incoming students under the age of 21; the Electronic Check-Up to Go (e-CHUG) program was incorporated into all College Transition classes, offering a brief self-assessment and harm reduction strategies; living-learning communities were expanded; a sophomore screening and intervention program was launched; late-night programming was expanded to offer students alternatives to drinking; the Critical Mentoring and Student Support program was implemented (more at; and a house party education and media campaign was launched.

Despite the progress, Rocklin said there's still work to do.

"I am grateful for the help of students, staff, faculty and community leaders in supporting our efforts to reduce high-risk drinking among our students," he said. "But the truth is, there is still too much high-risk drinking among our students. So I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to ensure the health and safety of students as well as everyone else whose lives intersect with our campus."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Tom Rocklin, vice president for student life, 319-335-3557,; Stephen Pradarelli, University Relations, 319-384-0007,