Health

AMA says it's time to fix broken spring break

Potential short- and long-term health problems that can result from "letting loose" are no vacation.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted March 27, 2006

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College women tend to drink too much and engage in high-risk sexual activity while away on spring break, says an American Medical Association survey released this month.

The AMA, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, conducted this poll of more than 600 women ages 17 to 35 as part of its "Matter of Degree" program, which aims to reduce high-risk drinking on college campuses.

Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed spring break trips involved heavier drinking than regular college social life.

Seventy-four percent believed these vacations led to increased sexual activity. In addition, three out of five had friends who had unprotected sex while on a spring break trip and one in five regretted their vacation sexual experiences.

"Spring break is broken," said AMA President J. Edward Hill, MD. "What was a traditional time to relax and take a break from college studies has turned into a dangerous binge-fest."

Additionally, 74% of respondents said women use drinking as an excuse for outrageous behavior such as public nudity and dancing on tables. About 59% also had friends who were sexually active with more than one partner while on a spring trip. Ninety-two percent said it was easy to obtain alcohol while on the break.

The AMA is particularly concerned about these findings because of scientific evidence suggesting that women might process alcohol differently from men and that, over the long term, this variance puts them at higher risk for heart problems, reproductive disorders and liver disease.

Concern also is focused on short-term risks highlighted by the survey.

"These ... results are extremely disturbing because it brings up an entirely new set of issues, including increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, blackouts and violence," Dr. Hill said.

The Association is calling for restrictions on campus alcohol advertising and an increased emphasis on spring break trips that do not focus on alcohol.

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External links

A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking Among College Students, program of the American Medical Association's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (link)

"AMA Policy Consolidation: Labeling, Advertising, and Promotion of Alcoholic Beverages," AMA Council on Scientific Affairs report, June 2004 (link)

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