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Drinking Study Confirms the Obvious

Penn State recently conducted its annual survey of student drinking. This annual assessment administered by Penn State Student Affairs seeks to gather information on issues faced by students, satisfaction, and usage of alcohol as a recreational drug. Three-quarters of the 6000 student random sample (aged 18 or over) described themselves as “light” or “moderate” drinkers.

The results also showed that, while drinking rates have not varied significantly from year to year, more women are engaging in “high-risk” drinking.

High risk drinking is defined as:

Having four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women, and five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men, at least once in the previous two weeks. In 2010, 52 percent of female students reported participating in high-risk drinking, compared with 48 percent in 2009 and 46.4 percent in 2008. The percentage of male students that engaged in high-risk drinking was 54 percent in 2010, compared to 60 percent in 2009 and 59 percent in 2008.

According to Linda LaSalle, the associate director of educational services for University Health Services, “There seems to be a decrease in the high-risk drinking rate for men and an increase for women, which is a departure from previous years. This seems to indicate that more of our female students are engaging in fairly dangerous levels of drinking.”

The “good” news however is that Penn State’s high-risk drinking is not unique. Other Big Ten schools have similar drinking rates.  According to Betty Harper, director of Student Affairs Research and Assessment:

“Drinking is part of the undergraduate culture for many students, and culture is something that is notoriously difficult and slow to change. Because the survey has been significantly revised over time, most recently in 2008, trends over time can be difficult to tease out. The University is making a variety of efforts to educate students about high-risk drinking, and I would anticipate that eventually these will begin to have a measurable effect.”

The survey results largely confirm what Penn State students already know. Drinking is an ever present part of Penn State culture and isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


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