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Black Students take less health risks than others

02/26/1998

OXFORD, Ohio -- Students at a sampling of eight historically black colleges and universities were less than half as likely as white college students to smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol.

In a pilot study of 996 students at the historically black colleges, Miami University health behavior researcher Reginald Fennell found 14.3 percent were current smokers (at least one cigarette in the last month). That compares to 31.8 percent of white students in a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Sixteen percent of students at historically black colleges had five or more drinks at one sitting (definition of binge drinking) in the previous 30 days. In the CDC survey, 39.5 percent of white students reported binge drinking.

The Miami researcher's findings are similar to racial differences found by the CDC in its recent National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (NCHRBS) of 7,442 students. Fennell used the NCHRBS questions in his study.

"Too often women and minorities are not included in studies, which makes it difficult to make recommendations regarding the needs of these groups," says Fennell. "This research is an attempt to provide such information."

While Fennell warns against generalizing the results from eight historically black colleges to all 117 such institutions or black students in general, he is optimistic that the students' low rate of smoking and alcohol abuse puts them ahead of some of the nation's health goals for young adults.

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