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Missoula Drinking Statistics Actually Show Less Recklessness

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Photo courtesy of Jon King

After late night television host David Letterman cited a Center for Disease Control survey listing Missoula as one of the top ten cities for binge drinking, many have been wondering what types of studies have actually been done in Missoula on the matter.

Sadly, there is precious little data concerning both alcoholism and binge drinking (even the CDC data is just a poll of 741 people, 137 of which affirmed that they had binged. Other than this poll, there is almost nothing gathered by either the Montana Department of Health and Human Services or by the Missoula City-County Health Department on drinking.

Though it doesn’t deal with the general adult population, the best data set available actually comes from students at the University of Montana, and it shows positive trends.

“Well, we always do a survey that’s called the ‘National College Health-Risk Assessment,’ or NCHA survey, and that survey looks at a lot of different health-risk behaviors among college students, and one of the main areas we look at is alcohol use,” said Curry Health Center Wellness Director Linda Green. “We have seen a real improvement with our alcohol usage numbers.”

In 2002, a shocking 26 percent of UM students claimed to have driven after drinking five drinks or more within a three hour sitting. Things have changed over the past decade though, as the last poll results show.

“[As of 2012], the average number of drinks that students are reporting when they go out and drink in an evening of partying is less than 4–3.73–and the national average is 3.5,” Green said. “Five percent of our students reported getting in a car and driving after five or more drinks. That’s higher than the national average, because the national average is at about three percent.”

The National college Health Assessment survey is performed every two years, the 2014 results will not be available until after March.

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