EAST LANSING, Mich. — Fewer Michigan State University students than ever are drinking and driving in 2008, and nearly 70 percent fewer report driving after having five or more drinks compared to 2000 data, according to information released Oct. 9 by the university’s Olin Student Health Center.

Among other positive health signs for MSU students in 2008: The percentage of students who do not smoke continues to rise, more than 70 percent are exercising at least one to two days per week and even more are using protection when having sex. The findings are part of MSU’s involvement in the National College Health Assessment Survey.

“The data shows that progress is being made in helping MSU students make choices about their health that will support them as they strive to attain both academic and social success,” said Dennis Martell, health education coordinator at Olin. “Our students are making more informed choices in many areas of health. They are doing this because we at the university have committed ourselves to providing them with access to health education and resources.

“The survey results show us our students are health conscious; our job is to make them health active.”

More than 1,660 students took part in the survey, which was completed online in February and administered by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. The survey is done every two years nationwide.

Other key findings:

The number of students reporting their academics suffered because of Internet abuse and computer games dropped slightly from 19 percent to 17 percent from 2006 to 2008, although the “trend line from 2000 to 2008 is still alarming,” Martell said.
The average number of sexual partners students reported having in the past academic year was 1.34, while students reported they believed the “typical” MSU student had more than three.
While nearly 80 percent of students reported using the Internet as a source of health information, educators, staff, faculty and parents ranked as the top four believable sources.
The survey also addressed students’ financial health and found 31 percent fewer students carry balances on their credit cards of more than $1,000 in 2008 compared to 2000.

“Financial stress can have a huge impact on students’ lives and academics,” Martell said. “Making smart financial decisions can help students excel in their personal lives and academics.”

In addition to students’ health activities, the survey also addressed students’ perceptions. Since 1998, MSU has attempted to bridge the gap between what students think is normal behavior and what actually is with the university’s Social Norms Marketing Research Project. The program aims to challenge the perceived environment of drinking on campus.

“Contrary to reported national trends, MSU continues to experience a decrease in the amount of alcohol that students report consuming the last time they drank,” Martell said. “It appears from our evaluations that the Social Norms efforts have equipped our students with the information they need to challenge the culture of high-risk drinking.”

To review the complete survey results, visit www.ippsr.msu.edu/ncha/results.htm. For more information on MSU’s Social Norms project, visit https://socialnorms.msu.edu/. And, to hear a Spartan Podcast with Martell, go to https://spartanpodcast.com/?p=475