New data shows how opioid crisis affects Pennsylvanians

Interactive dashboard makes data available to researchers

New data from the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg illustrates Pennsylvanians' views on the state’s opioid crisis. Utilizing responses from Pennsylvania adults from the center’s Lion Poll conducted in fall 2018, the data shows that half of Pennsylvanians know someone who has been addicted to opioids. Younger adults were more likely to know someone who has been addicted to opioids.

The data shows that, despite the widespread opioid epidemic, only one-third of adult Pennsylvanians are worried that they, themselves, could become addicted to prescription pain medications. That number goes up when they personally know someone who has been addicted.

“The opioid epidemic continues to grow in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Weston Kensinger, assistant teaching professor of health education in the college's School of Behavioral Sciences and Education. “This recent data shows how the opioid crisis affects different Pennsylvanians. It is a useful way to help researchers study the opioid epidemic and create targeted solutions to the issue.”

To showcase the data, the Center for Survey Research introduced an interactive data dashboard, which tells a story about the data. The dashboard enables users to see how data changes based on different demographics and parameters.

“We are excited to offer this new service to researchers, community organizations, and local governments who are looking to learn more about what’s going on in Pennsylvania,” said Tim Servinsky, project manager at the Center for Survey Research. “Although we have collected data on several different public interest topics, this is the first we have explored with the interactive data dashboard, given that the issue of opioid addiction is timely and critical in Pennsylvania.

Servinsky said the dashboard allows users to examine some of the center’s insights, while also providing the opportunity for them to find their own insights and explore the data themselves.

Stephanie L. Wehnau, director of the Center for Survey Research, added that the dashboard provides an opportunity to attract researchers across the Commonwealth to help add their own data on opioid addiction to the platform. “This service is available to the entire Penn State Harrisburg community, as well as those outside of the college. We have the ability to create dashboards for a number of public policy issues affecting Pennsylvania.” 

The interactive data dashboard will help users explore data dynamically, Servinsky said, adding that it also gives users who aren't particularly data-savvy the ability to explore data without the need for statistical software or special training. “We are empowering decision-makers to answer their own questions using survey data,” Servinsky said.

The center has many options for data collection and reporting, and works with varied clients, budgets, and time frames.  Researchers in other areas can work with the center to develop individual, specific dashboards.

“We can provide this service to anyone who has data to visualize,” Servinsky said.

The center is also involving students in using the interactive dashboard to learn how to analyze data for future use in their own research projects.

“This is a perfect partnership,” Servinsky said. “Because they will come up with things that we never envisioned. It gives students practical skills they can develop in the classroom.”