Study Reveals Binge Drinking Students Happier and More Socially Satisfied
Can alcohol win you friends and make you a happier individual? Apparently it can, says a new study presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
The study relied on a survey of 1,600 undergraduates from a Northeastern residential liberal arts college. Its key finding was that students who binge drink reported being happier and more socially satisfied than those who do not.
Students from so-called high status groups (these included wealthy, male, white or heterosexual students) were found to binge drink far more than their low status peers (less wealthy, female, non-white or LGBT students).
Interestingly enough, though, students from low status groups were able to increase their social satisfaction by binge drinking, the study found. Additionally, those from high status groups who did not binge drink were found to be less satisfied with their social lives than their binge-drinking peers in the same group.
Among the students who participated in the survey, 64% reported binge drinking, while 36% said they were not binge drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as consuming at least four drinks for women and five drinks for men in the course of one drinking session.
This research is troubling considering that binge drinking is associated with a host of serious issues including assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, vandalism, academic problems and drunk driving.
RID, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing alcohol-related road accidents, recently featured a sobering article on college drinking deaths. One of the most shocking findings is that nearly 2,000 students die from alcohol-related injuries each year, and another 599,000 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol.
In order to tackle these problems, it is important for college campuses to understand the underlying reasons for college binge drinking.
The study shows that contrary to popular belief, students are not drinking to self-medicate; in fact, researchers found that students who reported high levels of stress and anxiety were actually less likely to binge drink. Instead, drinking is seen as a way to adapt and fit in with the popular crowd in college.
“Drinking is heavily encouraged by fellow college students as a way to interact and truly be a part of the social scene,” says David Bakke, education expert and columnist at Money Crashers. “Students don’t want to go through college feeling like they missed out on a unique experience or rite of passage.”
Kevin Strauss, founder of FamilyeJournal.com and behavior modification researcher, supports this theory and commented that students often use binge drinking as a way to form stronger connections with their peers.
“Sure, the students feel socially satisfied because they’re connecting,” he says. “But it’s self-destructive and there are more positive ways [to connect].”
Terri Huggins, journalist, writer and graduate from Rider University, shared her experience with the drinking culture in college saying “During my school years, I didn’t see the point in [binge drinking]. When people engaged in it, what I saw was a bunch of fools who had lost all control. It was something I wanted no part of.”
However, although she was never attracted to the binge drinking scene, she does admit that she experienced some social dissatisfaction as a result of her refusal to join in.
“There was a part of me that was socially dissatisfied,” she says. “I didn’t fit in with what seemed to be the majority of students who engaged in heavy drinking.”