Binge drinking students happier than their peers
Binge drinkers are happier with their college experience than their peers who prefer to drink in moderation, according to a new study.
The study, based on analysis of nearly 1,600 undergraduates at a liberal arts college in 2009, found that students from 'higher' status groups are more likely to binge drink than their peers from lower social bands.
The researchers also found that binge drinking raises the social satisfaction of students in lower status groups, and expressed the view that most students start binge drinking just to fit into their college.
However, the study did not find that unhappy students drink to alleviate their depression. Students in the sample with the deepest stress and anxiety, and worst experiences of discrimination or sexual abuse, were found to be the least likely to drink.
"Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for high status in college," said Carolyn L. Hsu, co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University.
"It's what the most powerful, wealthy, and happy students on campus do. This may explain why it's such a desirable activity. When lower status students binge drink, they may be trying to tap into the benefits and the social satisfaction that those kids from high status groups enjoy. And, our findings seem to indicate that, to some extent, they succeed," Hsu said.
According to the authors, despite binge drinking's potential positive social effects, binge drinking students were not exempt from the negative interpersonal and health outcomes associated with heavy alcohol consumption.
"It's not that binge drinking is the solution to complex social problems," Hsu said.
"Rather, it is our hope that when universities and public health professionals design alcohol related programs for students, they take into account the full range and important social motivations underlying student binge drinking," she added.
The study will be presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.