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Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Assessment shows binge drinking more problem than chronic drinking

Results based on answers of randomly selected residents

By Laura Walker
Mercer County has a problem with binge drinking, but not chronic drinking, according to Wright State University's Center for Urban and Public Affairs.
Binge drinking is considered many alcoholic drinks on one occasion, while chronic drinking is having many drinks on many occasions.
This fact was brought to the public's attention during a slide presentation of the recent Mercer County Community Assessment on Tuesday afternoon at the Mercer County Central Services Building. More than 60 professionals and community members heard the assessment results presented by David Jones of the Center for Public Affairs.
The assessment included questions about several issues, such as drinking, sex education, available social services in the county, health insurance, parenting and more. The results were based on the answers given by 600 Mercer County residents randomly selected last year.
The assessment was requested and funded by members of Mercer County Community Organizations Linking Together (COLT) and Mercer County commissioners.
After the presentation there was an open question and answer session. Jones fielded several questions including, "What happens next?"
Jones said the next step is different for every public organization. Some organizations can use the data to apply for grants, and others will use it to prove their programs are meeting the needs of county residents.
In the past, county assessments have been used to start new programs, said Sara Beiler of the Mercer County Health Department.
During the presentation, Jones told the crowd the results showed that 5 percent of respondents who drank alcoholic beverages had more than five drinks in one sitting at least once in the past 30 days. Another question asked, "How many times in the past month have you driven when you've had perhaps too much to drink?" More than 3 percent said they have driven once or twice in the past month after drinking too much.
Past assessments from the health department also showed alcohol abuse to be a concern across the county.
In 1993, 61.7 percent of respondents said alcohol misuse was one of their top five health problems. Drunk driving came in second with 48.3 percent placing it in their top five health problems.
In this same year, questions were included about the reason residents consume alcohol. Respondents, 77.9 percent, said the main reason children and adults consume alcohol is to fit in with social/group peer pressure. More than 31 percent said the main reason adults use alcohol is out of habit.
Alcohol abuse problems also ranked high on assessments done in 1995, 1998-99 and 2001-02. In the 2001-02 assessment, the only concern that ranked higher than alcohol abuse was employment opportunities.
The complete 2006 assessment can be viewed by contacting the Mercer County Health Department, members of COLT or Jones. There are no other public presentations planned, according to Jones.
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