study reveals major misperceptions about student drinking patterns
August 30, 2004
A press release issued by The Student Life Education Company, Toronto
The Student Life Education Company today released a groundbreaking Canadian
study into post-secondary student drinking that shows a significant
difference between actual and perceived behaviour in four primary areas.
The study findings
will be used to develop targeted social norms marketing campaigns that
provide students with an accurate picture of drinking behaviour and
encourages them to drink responsibly.
Leading the study
and present for the launch was Dr. Wesley Perkins, researcher with the
Canadian Centre for Social Norms and Research, a branch of the Student
Life Education Company.
First, the survey
found that the majority of students (63%) drink twice per month or less.
However, 80% of students believe that their peers typically drink once
per week or more often. One-third believe that their fellow students
drink at least three times per week.
Second, most students
(64%) consume 1 to 4 drinks at parties or bars. The survey found that
67% believe students consume 5 or more drinks per occasion at parties
or bars. One-quarter of students believe that average consumption is
7 or more drinks. These first two results indicate that most students
overestimate both the quantity other students drink as well as the frequency
with which they drink.
Next, 93% of students
stated that one should not drink to levels that interfere with academics
or other responsibilities. In contrast, the survey found that 32% of
students believe that the majority of their peers consider such behaviour
Lastly, 80% of students
reported that they always or usually have a designated driver when they
know they will be travelling by car. The survey found that students
believe only 59% of their peers always or usually used a designated
driver. More then one-third of students believe that less than half
of their peers used a designated driver with such regularity.
misperceptions and demonstrating positive peer trends in student drinking
patterns, our goal is to bring more students in line with the norms
expressed by their peers, and ultimately, to eliminate unsafe drinking
behaviour," said Dr. Perkins. "Similar social norm campaigns
have led to significant reductions in student drinking at a number of
universities in the United States."
findings in a fall marketing campaign is the first stage in an effort
to educate students about drinking patterns and to ultimately lead them
to make safer and more responsible choices about alcohol consumption.
of Canada are pleased to provide a one million dollar grant to the Student
Life Education Company to carry out such an innovative student education
program on responsible drinking. This initiative is a valuable contribution
to a very important issue in Canadian society -- the health and safety
of our young people -- and is an important plank in our industry's
effort to promote responsible drinking amongst Canadian youth,"
said Jeff Newton, President and CEO of the Brewers of Canada. "Canadian
brewers view the promotion of responsible drinking not only as an important
corporate social responsibility but also as a key business priority.
Ensuring that people drink responsibly is integral to the future health
and image of our business and this project is a meaningful investment
against that objective."
To gauge the success
of the marketing campaign, the Student Life Education Company will retest
in October 2004. A second marketing campaign will follow in January,
and another retest will occur in October 2005.
The study on student
drinking patterns was conducted by the Canadian Centre for Social Norms
Research. Over 5000 students from 10 colleges and universities in 7
provinces took part in the study. The survey was conducted in October
Social norms research
is based on the premise that people's behaviour is influenced by the
perception of how other members of their social group behave. Social
norms theory dictates that when students misperceive the amount of alcohol
consumed by their peers, they are at greater risk of increasing their
own alcohol intake. Conversely, by promoting the truth about student
drinking patterns, those students who do engage in unsafe or irresponsible
drinking will see that their behaviour is outside the norm.
Student Life Education Company Inc.
The Student Life
Education Company (SLEC) is a not-for-profit organization established
in 1986. SLEC is dedicated to enhancing the quality of student life
in Canada by working with students and schools nationwide to encourage
healthy decision-making about alcohol use. The Student Life Education
Centre is comprised of three divisions including BACCHUS Canada, Student
Life NOW and The Canadian Centre for Social Norms Research.
Canadian Centre for Social Norms Research
The Canadian Centre
for Social Norms was launched in 2001 with the aim of decreasing at-risk
drinking behaviour on Canadian post-secondary campuses. The only centre
of its kind in Canada, the Centre for Social Norms Research researches
and develops targeted responsible-use education campaigns directed at
students. The Centre is financially supported by an operating grant
from the Brewers Association of Canada.
Brewers of Canada
The Brewers of Canada
represent brewing companies operating in Canada. BOC members account
for 98% of the jobs and economic activity in Canada's brewing sector.
The Brewers of Canada promotes the interests of Canadian Brewers through
the pro-active management of key regulatory, taxation, trade and social
policy issues. Canadian brewers pride themselves on many things -- from
brewing the best beer in the world to being a leader in educating consumers
about responsible drinking. The Brewers of Canada, in operation since
1943, has offices in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
What is social norms
- Social norms
theory is based on a scientific, environmental model used in most
- It states that
much of people's behaviour is influenced by their perception of how
other members of their social group behave.
- It advocates
communicating an accurate picture of peer behaviour, so that individual
behaviour can be positively impacted
How does social
norms theory apply to student drinking?
- By studying campus
drinking habits and providing students with accurate information,
social norms theory contends that students will become aware of positive
peer trends. This in turn will contribute to a reduction of unsafe
or high-risk drinking behaviour
How is social norms
students are surveyed about how much they are drinking and how much
they think others are drinking
- Surveys also
ask about the consequences of alcohol consumption and collect information
about student demographics
How is social norms
- Survey data is
used as the basis for the development of educational campaigns directed
towards its subjects (i.e. students)
- The campaigns
will inform students about actual patterns of behaviour and encourage
safe and responsible consumption of alcohol
What Canadian schools
are participating in the social norms research project?
universities are the University of Toronto, Victoria College (Toronto,
ON), Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC), University of Alberta
(Edmonton, AB), University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB), University
of Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB), University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon,
SK), and Saint Mary's University (Halifax, NS)
colleges are Humber College (Toronto, ON), Lakeland College (Lloydminster,
AB), Sault College (Sault Ste. Marie, ON)