Jueves 11 de Abril de 2002, Ip nš 12

Study calculates the effects of college drinking in U.S.
Por Diana Jean Schemo

On an average day, according to a new study, 4 college students die in accidents involving alcohol. An additional 1,370 suffer injuries tied to drinking, the study says, and an estimated 192 are raped by their dates or sexually assaulted after drinking.

The figures were released here today in a report by a task force of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, in what is believed to be the first study tracing alcohol use among college students to the impact on their health and safety. The report also recommends strategies for campuses to reduce student drinking.

The report, ''A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges,'' said the number of students who do not drink alcohol at all had risen, to 19 percent from 15 percent from 1993 to 1999, and that most students drank either moderately or not at all.

But the share of students who drink in binges, which the report defines as five consecutive drinks for a man and four drinks for a woman, remained steady at 44 percent. And the percentage of frequent binge drinkers -- students who reported three or more binge episodes in the previous two weeks -- rose from 20 percent in 1993 to 23 percent in 1999.

The 44 percent of college students who binge account for 70 percent of all alcohol consumed by students, the report said.

Describing the results, Dr. Ralph Hingson, the associate dean for research at Boston University's School of Public Health and the report's chief researcher, noted that the 13 percent of college students who reported having been assaulted by classmates who drank too much translated into 600,000 people -- equal to ''the entire city of Boston.''

''I think actually getting the numbers out will help the public understand that this is perhaps a larger problem than people might otherwise have thought,'' he said.

The report also found that 8 percent of college students, or 400,000 people, admitted to having unprotected sex when drinking, while 2 percent said they had sex when they were too drunk to give consent.

The report analyzed data from the Census and the Department of Education, as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National College Health Risk Behavior Survey; Harvard University's College Alcohol Survey; traffic accident records from the Department of Transportation; and an account in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine about 300 injuries involving alcohol that were not traffic-related.

The report's figures on alcohol-related injuries, sexual assaults and rapes came from Harvard's 1999 survey, which questioned 12,317 students at 128 colleges and universities, and extrapolated the results to the 8 million students at two- and four-year institutions.

The survey asks students if, since the school year started, they had ''experienced any of the following because of other students' drinking: been assaulted, pushed or hit; been a victim of sexual assault, date rape.''

While the Harvard survey was conducted in 1993, 1997 and 1999, the new report is the first to calculate the impact of its findings for all students across the country.

Of the 1,445 alcohol-related deaths a year -- or 4 a day -- 1,138 came as a result of car crashes, according to an analysis of coroners' reports, C.D.C. morbidity reports on unintentional deaths and data on traffic fatalities from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The report on college drinking found that drinking was heaviest among white male students attending four-year institutions, and lower at historically black colleges and universities, community colleges and among students who live at home.

Much of the drinking that was identified revolves around fraternities and sports events. It is also starting earlier in the week. ''Drinking has moved back from Saturday night to Friday night to Thursday night,'' said Mark S. Goldman, director of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Research Institute at the University of South Florida and another of the report's researchers. He added that students drink most heavily in their first months at school, suggesting that over time, many taper off.

In recent years, universities have started to test new strategies to curb student drinking. Some have dropped campaigns that use posters of blood-spattered accident scenes to illustrate alcohol's damage in favor of campaigns that emphasize the norm as the 60 percent of college students who drink moderately or not at all.

Dr. Hingson said that preliminary studies show alcohol use had dropped by 20 percent at some campuses that used this new approach.

While saying that no single solution would work on every campus, the report recommended that colleges and universities form partnerships with surrounding communities to limit drinking. Otherwise, the researchers said, controls on alcohol on campus would simply drive students into bars or fraternity houses.

  10/04/2002. The New York Times.