Originally created 03/08/06

Study: spring break can be hazardous to women's health



CHICAGO - The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break.

All but confirming what goes on in those "Girls Gone Wild" videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the trips result in increased sexual activity.

Sizable numbers reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner, activities that increase their risks for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The AMA is trying to call attention to underage drinking among women because their bodies process alcohol differently and put them at greater risk for health problems, Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA's president, said Tuesday.

The AMA-commissioned online survey queried a nationwide random sample of 644 college women or graduates ages 17 to 35 last week.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old junior at Illinois State University, said the AMA's effort to raise awareness is a good idea, but probably won't do much to curb drinking during spring break.

"I think a lot of students wouldn't really pay that much attention to it," Fitzgerald said. "They would just be like, 'Duh, that's why we do it.'"

About 30 percent of women surveyed said spring break trips with sun and alcohol are an essential part of college life.

Also, 74 percent said women use spring break drinking as an excuse for "outrageous" behavior that the AMA said could include public nudity and dancing on tables.

Of the 27 percent who said they had attended a college spring break trip:

-More than half said they regretted getting sick from drinking on the trip.

-About 40 percent said they regretted passing out or not remembering what they did.

-13 percent said they had sexual activity with more than one partner.

-10 percent said they regretted engaging in public or group sexual activity.

-More than half were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip.

The AMA said the findings highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. For example, the University of Nebraska, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the University of Wisconsin offer spring break "service" trips.

Gemma Kite, a 21-year-old Lehigh junior, is in Brunswick, Ga., for spring break this week, helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

"It's so much fun. We're working outside in the sun," Kite said.

She said many students see spring break as "your chance to go wild and crazy in a different country where no one's going to know you." Kite admitted those trips have a certain appeal, and she hopes to take a more party-oriented vacation next year.

"I like to have my fun," Kite said.

On the Net:

AMA: http://www.ama-assn.org