Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

University of Virginia Social Norms Program



Implementer: University of Virginia, National Social Norms Institute

Partners: funding from the United States Department of Education (Grant S184H010094) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Grant 5U18AA015617-02)

Program Overview: The University used a social norms marketing campaign, initially aimed at first year undergraduates only, in an attempt to reduce alcohol related harm among students.

Program Design: This campaign began in 1999, aimed exclusively at undergraduate students. The campaign was expanded to all students in 2002. The campaign aimed to correct misperceptions regarding the quantity and frequency of heavy drinking among university students. With the expansion of the campaign to the entire student population, an additional component was added, which included normative information on protective behaviors (for example preventing friends from driving after drinking).

In 2003 the program was further expanded to include targeted interventions for athletes, fraternities, and sororities. 

Evaluation: The evaluation of the university social norms campaign was conducted using data collected annually from 2001-2006 through a self-administered web survey. The survey questionnaire included items assessing alcohol-related negative consequences, self-reported usual alcohol consumption (used to calculate estimated BAC), as well as program recall. Due to the fact that the program was campus-wide there was not a true comparison group; instead the measure of exposure students who did not recall any program materials or messaging were used as the exposure group. 

Key findings:

  • Students exposed to the campaign were 22% less likely to report alcohol-related negative consequences (OR = 0.78, p < .05)
  • Recall of program messages also resulted in a 24% reduction in the likelihood of having an estimated BAC greater than .08 (OR = 0.76, p < .01)


1. Turner, J., Perkins, W., & Bauerle, J. (2008). Declining negative consequences related to alcohol misuse among students exposed to a social norms marketing intervention on a college campus. Journal of American College Health, Vol. 57(1), 85-93.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: University
Approach: Social Norms
Prev     Next