Market Overview

Do You Think You Were "Crazier" Than Today's College Kids? New Data Released by Fuse Says You're Probably Right.


an independent teen and young adult marketing agency, is often asked
about trends that brands might capitalize on to reach this specific
demographic. Our agency believes that Gen Z's behaviors are more
important than trends, because they are stable, often lasting for a
decade or more. A brand can build a strategy around long-term behaviors,
where doing so around a trend is precarious. And we are fortunate to be
living at a time when Gen Z behavior is actually more fascinating
than any short-term trend.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Fuse studies risk behavioral shifts among today's college students. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Fuse studies risk behavioral shifts among today's college students. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Among the most interesting behavioral shifts is the decline of what the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls "risk behaviors"
by college students. The college years – a life-stage traditionally
defined by experimentation – have given way to restraint.

In July 2018, Fuse initiated a study of 2,000 college students to better
understand their attitudes about risk behaviors. Here are four to pay
attention to:

Three Million Fewer Binge Drinkers
According to the
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
, in 2005 45% of college
students participated in binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks
at one time.) Ten years later that number was reduced to 37%. Adjusted
for the overall increase in college enrollment, that represents an
increase of three million college students who are not engaged in
binge drinking. This development is tempered by an increase in related
behaviors, specifically drinking and driving.

In the Fuse study, more than 30% of college students indicated they had,
in the last 12 months, either consumed alcohol and drove or were a
passenger in a vehicle in which the driver had been drinking alcohol. In
previous studies, the primary reason students cited for not finding an
alternate means of transportation was the social pressure they felt to
"not make a scene." That reason now ranks far behind "thinking the
driver was ok to drive."

The Era of Marijuana Legalization
Drug use among young
people continues to decline to historic levels according to the National
Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, while it continues to devastate
communities across the country, the
opioid crisis has all but spared college students
. Marijuana is the
most commonly used drug on campuses, but the rapid change of marijuana
laws throughout the U.S. (recreational marijuana is now legal in 9
states and Washington, DC) seems to have had little effect on its use.
According to the National
Institute of Health
, daily marijuana use on campus has only
risen slightly from 4.3% to 4.9% in the last ten years. (The percentage
of non-college students of the same age who use marijuana daily has
almost doubled from 6.7% to 12.8% during that same time). While the
effects of legalization may have had little impact on use, it does seem
to be changing attitudes about marijuana use.

According to our study, various forms of peer pressure to use marijuana
have faded, while "to relieve stress" and "because it feels good" are
the main reasons college students use marijuana.

The Myth of Hookup Culture
Given how much time is spent
talking about hookup
culture on college campuses
, it's hard to believe that college
students are having less sex than twenty years ago. But according to the
International Academy of Sex Research which studies the field of sexual
science, that's the case. It's a trend that seems to begin with high
school age teens, with the CDC reporting a significant decline in the
percentage of sexually active teens from 35% in 2007 to 28% in 2017.

53% of our college age respondents indicated not engaging in sex
in the previous twelve months. Of that group, 38% cited "not having
found the right partner," while almost as many (35%) mentioned "not
interested right now" as the reason. Lastly, we saw an uptick in
value-based reasons for abstaining with 8% of respondents citing
religion, belief in abstinence, and waiting until marriage.

Driving and Texting – A Risk Behavior That Continues to Grow
accidents are the leading cause of death among young people and
distracted driving is among the few risk behaviors that continues on an
upward trend. According to the National
Institutes of Health
, 50% of young drivers reported sending texts
while driving on the freeway, 60% while in stop-and-go traffic or on
city streets, and a whopping 87% text at traffic lights! Despite some
public outcry and a handful of campaigns to combat the issue, few
college students seem to have been swayed.

According to Fuse's study, only about a quarter of college students use
a hands-free device while driving and even fewer use a text-blocker.
Students have a higher confidence in their own abilities than they have
in others. In the NIH study, 46% of young people said they were capable
or very capable of talking on a cell phone and driving, but they felt
that only 8.5% of other drivers were capable. Fuse's study indicated
much the same sentiment about texting, with the majority of college
students indicating the reason they don't use a text blocker as, "I can
drive safely and text if needed."

to learn more about teen and young adult behavior.

About Fuse
is an independent agency that creates authentic brand engagement for
teens and young adults. We specialize in content, campus, influencers,
sports, music and retail while providing services across brand strategy,
social, creative and experiential. Our staff, led by partners Bill
Carter, Issa Sawabini and Brett Smith, is comprised of experienced
marketing professionals and cultural experts who maintain unrivaled
attention to authenticity. For more about Fuse, check out our website or
find us on InstagramTwitter,
and LinkedIn.

View Comments and Join the Discussion!