posted on Sept. 19: Alcohol awareness campaign a Reality Check!


More University students are drinking alcohol in moderation, according to a comparison of three annual alcohol awareness surveys conducted on campus.

The average number of nights per week students reported drinking decreased by .5 from 1.6 to 1.1. As well, more students are drinking fewer drinks per event with less experiencing the negative consequences of a blackout or memory lapse.

The statistics bolster the launch of the second annual Reality Check! campaign, a program designed to promote informed decision-making among students who use alcohol.

The awareness campaign began this week with the release of the first in a series of posters into residences, athletics & recreation facilities and campus bathrooms and bulletin boards.

The theme of “Go Figure, Eh” was adopted to use humour and pop culture to raise students' awareness about how they behave and regard their peers. The campaign is also being promoted on the Reality Check! Web site.

Students are encouraged to know the facts about alcohol use and a “toonie” will be given out on Tuesdays beginning Oct. 2, to students who correctly recall the campaign messages posed by Student Health Service volunteers known as “reality checkers.”

Health educator Jane Radix, of the Student Health Service, said the campaign's goals are to increase student awareness and encourage students “towards more moderate and responsible use” that reflects the norm.

Radix said the proactive prevention model has statistically shown that students consistently overestimate the amount and frequency of alcohol use by their peers.

“The misperceptions create pressure to consume more alcohol in order to fit in with the perceived norm,” said Radix. “By dispelling these mipserceptions through the presentation of actual use or true norms ( behaviour that is accepted, adopted or practiced by the majority of the population) you then close the gap between perception and actual use. With this change in perception comes change in the actual behaviour and a reduction in the amount and frequency of alcohol used.”

This year's alochol awareness survey showed that students overestimated or misperceived both the frequency of consumption and amount of alcohol consumed by their peers. The majority of the sample believed that their peers were out drinking an average of two nights a week or eight nights a month and a large majority felt their peers were high end users of alcohol.

The actual student practice or normative behaviour for the number of nights of drinking was only 1.1 night a week or 4.4 nights a month. Seventy six per cent of students consumed five or less drinks a night or none at all compared to 66 per cent the year before.

These results closely reflect those of the larger Canadian Campus Survey(CCS) published in April of 2000 which surveyed 16 universities across Canada.