COBE Connect: An Update and Overview of Spit for Science

The February COBE Connect Lunch series featured Dr. Danielle Dick discussing the history of Spit for Science and the creation of the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Institute.

The Spit for Science VCU Student Survey is an effort to understand how genetic and environmental factors come together to contribute to the development of problems associated with the use of alcohol, the use of other substances, and emotional health.

The study brings together researchers from across the university and asks a broad base of questions, covering topics including living situation; personality; family history and childhood upbringing; experience of stressful life events; social support; involvement in extracurricular activities; alcohol and other drug use; other mental health related problems, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders; caffeine use; friends’ behavior; nicotine use; and religiosity – to name a few!

A big focus is on substance use and emotional health since the life stage that college students are entering is a high risk period for the onset of problems associated with these outcomes. In any given year in the U.S., one in four adults over the age of 18 suffers from one or more psychiatric or substance use disorders. Nicotine and alcohol dependence are among the most common, preventable causes of mortality and morbidity. In 2020, major depression will exceed cardiovascular illness as the leading biomedical source of world-wide morbidity.

Collectively, psychiatric and substance use disorders are the most costly U.S. public health concerns in, both, human and financial terms. The magnitude of these adverse health effects underscores the need to understand the root causes of these disorders in order to provide more effective approaches to both primary and secondary prevention in addition to treatment.