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Secondhand Effects of Student Alcohol Use Reported by Neighbors of Colleges: The Role of Alcohol Outlets

Wechsler H, Lee JE, Hall J, Wagenaar AC and Lee H. Social Science & Medicine, 55(3): 425-435, 2002.

This is a study of the secondhand effects of student alcohol use experienced by residents of neighborhoods near college campuses. We examined the relationship of a college’s level of binge drinking and the number of alcohol outlets in the immediate area, to lowered quality of neighborhood life through such secondhand effects. Adults from 4661 households in the United States were interviewed through a stratified list-assisted random digit dialing telephone survey. The interview schedule included questions about residents’ experiences of secondhand effects of alcohol use such as noise, vandalism or public disturbances. Reports about the quality of neighborhood life provided by respondents residing near colleges were compared with those of respondents who did not live near colleges; and reports of neighbors of colleges with high rates of binge drinking were compared with those of neighbors of colleges with lower rates. The presence of alcohol outlets in these areas was also compared. Residents near colleges and particularly near colleges with heavy episodic drinking reported the presence of more alcohol outlets within a mile. Those neighborhoods were characterized by lower socioeconomic status. Neighbors living near college campuses were more likely to report a lowered quality of neighborhood life through such secondhand effects of heavy alcohol use as noise and disturbances, vandalism, drunkenness, vomiting and urination. A path analysis indicated that the number of nearby alcohol outlets was an important factor mediating the relationship between colleges, especially those with high rates of binge drinking, and such secondhand effects. The results suggest that neighborhood disruptions around colleges due to heavy alcohol use may be reduced by limiting the presence of alcohol outlets in those areas, and the marketing practices that this engenders.

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