Giving Compass' Take:

• According to a new study, a university-wide social norms marketing campaign reduced high-risk drinking and adverse outcomes of drinking among college students at Michigan State University.

• How can funders use this information to help reduce drinking – particularly binge drinking – among college students? 

• Learn about the high impact opportunity of addressing adolescent drinking. 

Researchers created the social norms campaign to educate students about actual drinking behavior on campus. When misperceptions are corrected, behavior will change to be more consistent with the actual norm, says Dennis Martell, director of Health Promotion at Michigan State University.

“The social norms marketing approach assumes that most people conform to the perceived standards of the social groups to which they belong but, in actuality, what’s perceived is often not reality,” he says.

“MSU has almost 20 years of evidence that shows that high-risk drinking and perceptions about drinking have changed on campus. The general misperception is that college-aged students party a lot and make questionable decisions, but the reality is that most students who choose to drink do so responsibly.”

Martell and his coauthors analyzed survey data collected every two years since 2000 and found that perceived drinking norms declined along with measures of actual drinking intensity and frequency. For example, the percentage of students who drank eight or more drinks declined from 27.8% in 2000 to 16.5% in 2014—a 41% decline.

Read the full article about cutting college drinking by Kim Ward at Futurity.