A University of Iowa study on college students and alcohol finds marketing campaigns that try to discourage binge drinking don’t work. The campaigns use statistics to counter students’ misperceptions about how much fellow students drink — posters or ads stressing the majority of students are moderate or nondrinkers, for example. Chief researcher, Dr. Shelly Campo, a U-of-I professor of community and behavioral health, says those so-called “social norms” marketing campaigns are ineffective.Dr. Campo says “We found that it’s not the perception of the typical student that matters, it’s the perception of their friends’ drinking that matters, and more importantly it’s the perceptions of their -male- friends’ drinking that matters.” She says the study of some 550 students found the marketing campaigns had no where near the impact of a peer group. Dr. Campo says universities need to find ways to influence the social environment and the sway friends have over each other, adding, peer pressure, not posters, has the greatest impact. Campo found colleges and universities that claimed great success in reducing problem drinking among students typically were implementing additional methods, such as peer-to-peer education sessions, expanded counseling services and parental notification policies. The results are published in the latest quarterly issue of the journal Health Communication.
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