Risky College Student Drinking Reduced

Only colleges and universities that correct student overestimations of the amount of drinking on campus actually reduce risky drinking and alcohol-related harm.

That’s the finding of a study of 76,145 students from 130 colleges and universities across the United States. The students were part of the National College Health Assessment survey.

Students' perception of their campus drinking norm was by far the strongest predictor of the amount of personal alcohol consumption, stronger even than gender and the actual campus drinking norm. Each one-drink increase in a student's perception of the campus norm predicted almost a one-half drink increase in personal consumption.

Reducing students’ exaggerated misperceptions about campus drinking reduces their own personal alcohol consumption.

This is the basis of the social norms marketing approach, which has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to reduce drinking, risky drinking, and alcohol-related harm on campuses across the country.


  • National Social Norms Resource Center. Largest Nationwide Study to Date Confirms Perceptions as Strongest Predictor of Personal Alcohol Consumption on College Campuses: Research Further Finds That Students Exposed to Prevention Programs That Decrease Misperceptions Exhibit Less High-Risk Drinking and Negative Consequences. National Social Norms Resource Center press release, September 13, 2005; Perkins, H. W., Haines, M. P., and Rice, R. "Misperceiving the College Drinking Norm and Related Problems: A Nationwide Study of Exposure to Prevention Information, Perceived Norms and Student Alcohol Misuse" Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2005, 66(4):470-478.