As many as 2,400 18-25-year-olds within a nine-city area will be assisting North Memorial Medical Center in a survey focusing on how common drinking is among young adults.
Individuals in Crystal, Robbinsdale, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Golden Valley, New Hope, Maple Grove, Osseo and Plymouth were randomly selected via address databases and sent a 10-page survey to help Partnership for Change understand alcohol attitudes and behaviors within the age group.
“This is really completely new for this age group,” said Sheila Nesbitt, Partnership for Change coordinator at North Memorial. “It’s the first time that we, and really anyone in the state, has taken a look at this level about alcohol use among young adults.”
Part of what prompted Partnership for Change’s survey resulted from taking a look at data and information. The organization became concerned that alcohol use doesn’t end at age 21, just because a person is of legal age to drink.
“The young population that is involved comes from irresponsible alcohol use,” Nesbitt said. “Even though it’s legal, we want to encourage moderate and safe and responsible alcohol use for those that choose to drink. For 18- to 25-year-olds, it’s reducing binge drinking.”
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks in a row on one occasion within 14 days for males and females.
By surveying the age group, Partnership for Change will be able to map what drinking patterns look like for young adults and whether or not they continue to binge drink at the levels that younger ages do.
“What age do they taper off?” Nesbitt said. “At some point during their 20s, most people’s alcohol use will begin to taper off. Certainly there are concerns that it doesn’t taper off for everyone. We are concerned about the number of people at young ages that have developed chemical or alcohol dependency.”
The group of young adults surveyed result in six percent of the state’s population.
“It’s a little shocking to us,” Nesbitt said. “It’s going to be really important information.”
The survey, that is being led in part by the Department of Human Services, consists of a list of questions that covers attitudes and perceptions young adults have towards alcohol use and about how much they think people are at risk harming themselves from certain behaviors.
“It asks about activities involved in alcohol use,” Nesbitt said. “Drinking games and other things that contribute to binge drinking. Why they drink, where, how much and a good bit of demographic information.”
Nesbitt said they are hoping that the survey is one of the first steps to having people think of problems associated with alcohol use. As they begin conversations, young adults will hopefully hear more messages about moderation and choose to not use alcohol in excess, or maybe even at all.
“We’ve already formed a young adult advisory council that’s a group of young adults in the community who are interesting in seeing the results,” Nesbitt said. “They will be doing activities in the communities and looking at promotion, alcohol service, prices and behaviors around parties.”
Partnership for Change will then collect the information that the young adults feel will help be the most important way to support legal and low risk alcohol use.
“We’re looking forward to hearing the young adults’ voice,” Nesbitt said. “Having worked in the field for a long time, there is a lot of opportunity to hear a youth voice, and a parent’s voice and other decision makers voices, but we don’t always hear form young adults about what they are experiencing.”
Through the survey, Nesbitt said the organization would like to identify where to focus their efforts and know where people are drinking, where people are drinking in excess and whether it is in private or at a party.
Nesbitt said it will be great to work with young adults in order to realize that some out there recognize the importance in moderation.
“Even for some it’s illegal to use and we have a strong no illegal use message,” she said. “Those who are illegal or watching friends, they develop their own ideas for what is acceptable and moderation. That concept needs to develop and actually, we hope to perhaps change what people will think of moderation after they see too many consequences.”