Study finds students hitting books, not booze – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Study finds students hitting books, not booze

CTV.ca News Staff 

A new study funded by Canada’s brewing companies suggests that university and college students aren’t drinking as much as everyone thinks they are.

In the fall of 2003, the Canadian Centre for Social Norms Research surveyed more than 5,000 students across 10 university and college campuses in seven provinces to see how much they drank and how much they perceived their fellow students drink.

Dr. Wesley Perkins, a professor of sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., says that “reign of error” rules on Canadian campuses over students’ perceptions of their peers’ drinking habits.

“Most students grossly overestimate both the quantity other students drink as well as the frequency with which they drink,” he said.

The survey found that 63 per cent of students drink twice a month or less.

But, he says, it also found that 80 per cent of respondents believe that their peers drink once a week or more often. About one-third of students believe their peers drink three times or more per week.

The study also found that 64 per cent of students surveyed drink one to four drinks at a party, yet 67 per cent believe their peers consume five or more drinks per occasion.

“It’s not to say there isn’t someone out there drinking seven or more drinks, but they’re in the tail of the distribution and not in the centre of the bell curve.”

The study found that about a quarter of respondents believed the average drink count per occasion among students is seven or more.

Eighty per cent of respondents reported using a designated driver when they knew they were going to be drinking alcohol, but only 59 per cent thought their peers would do so.

Perkins says that the more students misperceive alcohol use among their peers, the more likely they are to conform to what they view as a social norm and drink in excess.

He hopes that students who have an accurate understanding of student drinking will constrain irresponsible drinking among their friends and classmates and bring other students in line with the norms.

Jason Hunter, Dean of Students at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, says the results of the study are encouraging.

“What the study does is it looks at what students are doing and it mirrors that back to them,” he said.

Hunter says he was pleased with Victoria College’s own results in the study. “We’re a little bit lower than the norms, so we’re happy about that.”

The Canadian Centre for Social Norms Research was launched in May 2002 and is funded by a $1 million grant from the Brewers Association of Canada.

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