Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Dr. Linda C. Hancock

Second Advisor

Dr. C.M.G. Buttery


Purpose: To conduct a secondary analysis of survey data collected at a large, urban university assessing for change in students' alcohol use perceptions and behaviors between 2002 and 2004. After the baseline data collection in 2002, the campus launched an intensive media intervention to normalize low-risk drinking. Simultaneously, the campus shifted from being a primarily commuter to primarily residential. Methods: This cross-sectional analysis used data collected from students in randomly selected undergraduate classes in February 2002 (n= 662) and 2004 (n=1334). The survey instrument used was the National College Health Assessment. Variables were categorized as demographic, alcohol perception, and alcohol related behavior. Because the media intervention targeted undergraduate students, decisions were made to limit analysis to traditional undergraduate students and to eliminate extreme self-reported drinking outliers by only including 18-24 year old undergraduates and those who reported drinking 25 or fewer drinks per sitting. Frequency tables were used to assess patterns. Independent samples t-tests and Pearson correlation coefficients were also calculated. Results: Consistent with the literature review, this study confirmed the existence of alcohol use misperceptions. The percent of the sample reporting accurate low-risk use perceptions increased. Despite correcting misperceptions, this study failed to document a decrease in high risk alcohol use and harm. Independent samples t-tests calculations revealed a statistically significant change in perception (t=6.49; pConclusions: This study adds to the body of literature that documents misperceptions are positively correlated with heavy drinking. The review of the literature also suggests that residential campuses have higher consumption rates than commuter campuses. In light of the 25% increase in residence hall space that occurred at this campus, one might have predicted that alcohol consumption should have increased. It is possible that no change was beneficial change. The planning and implementation phases of social norms campaigns on college and university campuses must take into account changes to the campus environment and changes in the student population demographics.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Epidemiology Commons