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WWU, Lifestyles, Project, follow-up, patterns, alcohol, drug, consumption, consequences, students


Executive Summary: In response to both internal and national findings and concerns, the first Western Washington University Lifestyles Project Survey of alcohol and drug usage among Western students was conducted in 1992 as part of the University's on-going effort (a) to investigate students' college experience both in and out of the classroom; (b) to enhance those experiences which lead to personal and academic success; and (c) to reduce risk factors jeopardizing student success. The 1995 WWU Lifestyles Project Survey follow-up has the same goals as its predecessor. Both surveys were administered to random samples of students across all years in school (freshmen through senior). Demographically, the 1995 survey cohort of 489 respondents I mirrored the overall population of 1995 Western students by gender, ethnicity, and age. In the 1992 report, researchers concluded that three patterns of alcohol use existed among Western students: 1) a sizable number reported no-to-low drinking patterns, with nearly a quarter reporting not drinking at all; 2) among drinkers only, about a third reported typical drinking patterns best described as moderate; and 3) also among drinkers only, patterns emerged that would be considered heavy drinking, with nearly a third of drinkers indicating they binged on typical occasions, and nearly two-thirds indicating they binged on peak occasions. For the most part, national findings were similar. Generally, drinking patterns changed little between 1992 and 1995; however, there were some encouraging trends to note. For one, though students in 1995 did not report drinking any less frequently, they did appear to be drinking in lesser quantities than they were in 1992. For instance, the percentage of students who drank seven or more drinks on typical occasions fell 1.7% (from 16.3% in 1992 to 14.6% in 1995), while the percentage of students who drank seven or more drinks on peak occasions fell 6.8% (from 40.6% in 1992 to 33.8% in 1995). Furthermore, the percentage of students who had five or more drinks on typical occasions remained nearly the same (33.8% in 1992 vs. 34.1% in 1995). These changes in the quantity of student drinking come at a time when the use of alcohol is beginning to see increases at the high school level. For instance, findings from Western's 1995 was the first year since 1981 that there increases rather than decreases in the percentage of college-bound high school seniors indicating they had drank beer, wine, or liquor. For alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs, such trends might forebode even harder work ahead. The 1995 Lifestyles Survey found that not as many students indicated experiencing a negative effect due to drinking--down 3.0% from 1992. Promising also was the higher percentage of students indicating that they had never driven after two, or after four drinks. However, even though fewer students in 1995 indicated experiencing no negative effects due to alcohol use, certain findings indicated that those who did experience negative effects may have had more negative experiences than students in 1992; for instance, the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Inventory (RAPI) mean, a measure of overall negative effects due to alcohol, was up slightly from 4.3 in 1992 to 4.5 in 1995. It may be, however, that current survey students who experienced and possibly had slightly more negative effects due to alcohol use may continue, like they did in 1992, to be unable to recognize the negative effect alcohol may be having in their lives. Findings from the 1995 survey indicated that while only 3.1% of respondents indicated any likelihood of drinking impairing their ability to complete homework assignments, 18.1% indicated that they had experienced at least one incident where they were unable to study for a test or complete homework due to drinking. This percentage of difference of 15.0% was higher than the 12.4% discrepancy found for 1992 survey respondents. There is, in other words, some indication that students have a blind spot when it comes to their perception of how alcohol may impair their academics. Regarding drug usage, the most important finding that emerged was that more students in 1995 indicated they had used marijuana than in 1992. At this point, use remains relatively infrequent, with only 6.4% indicating they used marijuana more often than 2-3 times a month. Yet like alcohol use, there appears to be more acceptance of marijuana use than there has been in the past. Findings from Western's 1995 survey of in-coming freshmen indicated the highest percentage of freshmen since 1976 support the idea of legalizing marijuana (44.2% compared to the all-time low of 16.4% in 1989). Regarding sexual activity, students continue to feel that they are not particularly at risk of either sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) or pregnancy. Well over forty percent of students indicated they never used condoms when they had sexual intercourse, and well over sixty percent did not use a condom during their most recent sexual intercourse. And while few students indicated that they had had unwanted sex, for those students who had, most were females. On those occasions when a student had unwanted sex, alcohol was involved about a third of the time.




Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

College students--Alcohol use--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Statistics; College students--Drug use--Washington (State)--Bellingham--Statistics

Title of Series

Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing) ; 1996-01






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