This week Whitman College released the results of the 2015 Lifestyle Choices survey. Completed only once every three years, the Lifestyle Survey has assessed six categories of student behaviors since 2002.
The Lifestyle Choices survey was created in 2002 to improve Whitman students’ understanding of certain health and lifestyle behaviors. It also includes a section about sleep and diet habits. Director of Institutional Research Neal Christopherson put together the survey alongside Institutional Research Analyst Kristen Erskine.
“The operating theory behind the survey is the social norms theory. It is about educating students how much drinking is actually going on campus. If we can essentially tell [the students] how much drinking is going on in campus, then students can make better decisions about their own drinking habits,” said Christopherson.
According to the survey, there is a perception on campus that students drink a lot more alcohol than they actually do. Posters around campus notifying students of their peers’ drinking and sleeping habits, which use statistics from the Lifestyle Survey, are intended to encourage students to make healthier choices by showing them that their peers generally have more moderate lifestyles than they assume.
“We do the survey out of professional development and curiosity to look at longitudinal trends. The primary way we use the results is through various posters placed on campus. The most misperceived group of people on campus is first-year students. People think they drink twice as much as they actually do,” said Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell.
This fall, the survey was sent out to 1,348 Whitman students who were on campus and planned to attend in the spring. The response rate was 52 percent, with only 705 students responding, a far lower number than in previous years.
The 2015 Lifestyle Survey found that 29 percent of Whitman students did not drink on an average Friday night and that 30 percent drank on an average Saturday night. Maxwell noted that the vast majority of Whitman students are very responsible in drinking choices.
Greek membership is a very large factor in assessing drinking among various campus groups. Forty-six percent of fraternity members drank seven or more drinks when they party; only 10 percent of independent men drank as much. Thirty-three percent of women’s fraternity women drank seven or more drinks while partying; only 14 percent of independent women did the same.
The survey also gives a complex breakdown of which drugs students use. A little over half of the student body smoke marijuana at least once a year. Around 16 percent use the drug once a week or more. On average, fraternity men use tobacco, marijuana, hallucinogens and other drugs much more frequently than other students. The most popular hard drugs on campus are hallucinogens, which 15.8 percent of students have used.
“I think drugs and alcohol are very visible on campus. There is easy access, but with that being said most of my peers are responsible about their use,” said first-year Bryce Benson.