School-based social norming: alcohol consumption

Evidence Rating  
Mixed Evidence
Evidence rating: Mixed Evidence

Strategies with this rating have been tested more than once and results are inconsistent or trend negative; further research is needed to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

Social norming campaigns provide objective, normative information in order to reduce misperceptions and, ultimately, change behavior1. Campaigns can be implemented in a variety of settings and through a variety of means, including: mail, online, face-to-face, and mass media approaches2.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced excessive drinking

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is mixed evidence about the effects of school-based social norming campaigns on alcohol misuse among university, college, and high school students. Effectiveness varies with the way the intervention is delivered; some types of campaigns have been shown to reduce harmful alcohol consumption, especially in the short-term, and others have no effect, positive or negative, on participants’ drinking behavior2, 3.

Social norming campaigns delivered via web with computer feedback and individual face-to-face interventions can reduce alcohol-related problems and quantity of consumption, and positively affect drinking norms. Effects of these campaigns are strongest in the first three months following participation but can last up to sixteen months, especially for web-based interventions. Mailed and group feedback and social norms marketing campaigns, however, do not appear to change drinking behavior or reduce alcohol-related harms among participants2.

Alcohol-related social norming campaigns of all types may be less effective in locations with higher alcohol outlet density2.

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Hobart and William Smith College is an example of a college that has undertaken an extensive social norming campaign4.


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1 CG-Motor vehicle injury - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Motor vehicle injury prevention.

2 Cochrane-Moreiria 2009* - Moreira MT, Smith LA, Foxcroft D. Social norms interventions to reduce alcohol misuse in university or college students. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009;(3):CD006748.

3 Champion 2013* - Champion KE, Newton NC, Barrett EL, Teesson M. A systematic review of school-based alcohol and other drug prevention programs facilitated by computers or the internet. Drug and Alcohol Review. 2013;32(2):115-23.

4 AEP - Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Alcohol education project.

Date Last Updated