Researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine revealed that more than two-thirds of college-aged women engaged in unprotected sex the last time they consumed alcohol. Despite wide public awareness that protection prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, alcohol seems to lower inhibitions enough where a majority of women are making decisions they normally would not had they not consumed alcohol. Of course the fact that alcohol makes people do things they normally would not is not a new revelation. However, now that the study confirms that women are more at risk to contract sexually transmitted diseases and become pregnant, it appears that more education is necessary, for both sexes.
“Relative to older women, young women engage in an elevated rate of alcohol use and are at increased risk for adverse sexual health outcomes. Interventions that target beliefs around alcohol use, which could assist young women to increase condom usage, could show benefit in the reduction of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, as well as unintended pregnancies,” explained Jennifer Brown, PhD, and lead author of the study.
In order for researchers to come to this conclusion they gathered data from 287 women, all college-aged. The participants completed confidential surveys related to alcohol use, alcohol-related behaviors and behaviors related to sex. It was determined that it much more common for women to engage in sexual activities without a condom when they are under the influence of alcohol. When asked to expand on this, the majority of women stated that physical desires and tendency to engage in riskier situations while under the influence of alcohol played major roles in their decision making.
Of course, males are not exempt from the need to increase alcohol education. In fact, researchers believe that males and females would benefit greatly from increased awareness of common mistakes made under the influence of alcohol. Researchers are especially concerned because this age group commonly engages in alcohol use and overuse.
A common misconception is that alcohol is healthy for an individual. Several years ago a report was issued stating that a glass of wine daily would fend off heart disease. For years afterwards many people would cite this study as a reason why it was ok to promote drinking. However, since the study was released, researchers have discovered that any health benefits from a glass of wine a day are negligible and there were likely problems with the study in the first place. The danger of publishing information is that is not accurate is that the millions of people that it reaches will subsequently make decisions off of wrong information.
“It is particularly interesting to note that those who believe alcohol to be heart healthy actually drink more alcohol. Whether their belief causes this behavior, or merely justifies it, remains an interesting unknown,” explained Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco.
Marcus and his team conducted a study to determine people’s perceptions on alcohol and any related health benefits. They discovered that 80% of the people who believed that alcohol was healthy for an individual felt this way because of the reports produced by the media on the health benefits of wine. Additionally, the researchers discovered that those that believed that alcohol was healthy had high rates of alcohol abuse. These people consumed 47% more alcohol than people who did not believe that alcohol was healthy for a person.
The correlation between the media and the public’s decisions is interesting, and highlights the major role the media has when it comes to the decision making process. Experts agree that the danger of consuming too much alcohol far outweighs any minor health benefits a glass of wine has for a person. Binge drinking and drunk driving are threats that make alcohol consumption a risky endeavor, especially for those that tend to over drink in the first place.
A disturbing trend that appears to be emerging among teenagers is that that one in five teens believe it’s okay for their designated driver to drink and use drugs, as long as they’re not “too impaired.” This mindset is extremely dangerous, which unfortunately costs lives of not only some of the teens involved, but potentially also to innocent people on the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), About 18 percent of fatal crashes involving 16 – 20 yr-olds included impaired drivers. Overall, more than 30 percent of the total deaths (about 10,000 lives lost) are alcohol-related each year.
Bloomberg reports that the information from the survey was provided by Liberty Mutual Holding. David Melton, managing director for global safety at Liberty Mutual, told Bloomberg that teens ““seem to think that unless they’re really falling-down drunk, that it’s OK for them to drive.”
Teens today are bombarded with a pop culture attitude that “partying” as much as possible is good. Reality show after reality show aimed at young people include drunk, obnoxious and irresponsible behavior that is popularized and even glamorized. Additionally, music in multiple genres today are heavily-laden with references about drinking, from pop and country to hip-hop and more.
In order to reverse trends such as the one mentioned in the survey, a full cultural shift must take place into one that doesn’t condone such behavior.