Success of plasma centers could hurt Red Cross, study finds

ATHENS, Ohio -- The popularity of for-profit blood plasma collection agencies as a source of extra income among college students could lead to shrinking donor rolls for the Red Cross and other nonprofit collection agencies.

A new Ohio University study of 411 college students age 18 to 22 found that 10 percent have sold their blood plasma at least once for payments typically ranging from $9 to $20 per donation. In that group, three out of five are former Red Cross donors who stopped donating blood when they started selling their plasma.

And most student donors don't need the money to get by, but are using the funds to pay for nonessential goods, says sociologist and study author Leon Anderson. Anderson, who published the research in the latest issue of the journal Sociological Spectrum, became interested in characteristics of paid plasma donors while doing research on the homeless, many of whom have been frequent paid donors at for-profit collection agencies in the United States.

When he launched this new study, Anderson expected to find at least one shared characteristic between paid student donors and those who are homeless -- poverty. But instead, he found that the college students who sell their plasma are more likely to come from families with incomes of at least $50,000 and are more likely to be employed in part-time jobs than other college students. There also were more male paid donors than female.

"I would have bet that the poorest students would have the highest rates of paid donation," says Anderson, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology. "I was stunned when that wasn't the case."

Most study participants said they used the money for such things as cigarettes, alcohol and entertainment activities, rather than for essential needs.

"Many Americans tend to live beyond their means and these students are no different," Anderson says. "They turn to selling plasma a

Contact: Kelli Whitlock
Ohio University

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