Binge drinkers report more happiness with college than their peers: Report
Who says drinking doesn't make it so?
A new study reveals that binge drinking is associated with social power on college campuses, and that binge drinkers are happier with their college experience and social life than their non-drinking peers.
"Lower status" students -- identified as poor kids, minorities, females, LGBT students and non-frat members -- mimic wealthier, heterosexual, white, male, Greek-affiliated students by binge abusing alcohol just like the frat boys, said Carolyn Hsu, co-author of "Social Status, Binge Drinking and Social Satisfaction," a report analyzing responses of about 1,600 students at an unnamed residential Northeastern college.
"Low status students in particular seem to be using binge drinking as a vehicle for social mobility and a way to contend with an otherwise hostile social environment," said Hsu, but "students in all groups consistently liked college more when they participated in the campuses' binge drinking culture."
Hsu, an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University, cautioned against interpreting the survey's results as an endorsement that binge drinking promotes happiness. Rather, she said, she wanted people trying to curtail alcohol abuse to understand that peer pressure and a desire to conform are driving binge drinking.
Also, Hsu wanted students tempted to binge drink students to ask themselves, "'why am I allowing this one group of kids to determine what I do?!'" Many alternatives, such as activity-based groups, exist for social validation, she noted.
The one group that reported high levels of social satisfaction without abusing alcohol were religious students, said Hsu. The religion itself did not matter as much as the frequency of attending at least one organized religious event each week -- perhaps because the group activities helped to provide social support and validation of their abstemious habits.
There are many, well-documented downsides to binge drinking: An increased risk of sexual harassment and sexual assault, drunken driving accidents, poor academic performance and an increased chance of becoming alcohol dependent. Binge drinkers in the study consumed an average of 13.7 drinks per week to non-bingers 4.2 a week.
Binge drinkers may report more social satisfaction, "but they're also the people who don't do well in school," observed Nathania (cq) Cohen, 21, who graduated from Hunter College in May. Cohen, who lives in Manor Hts., Staten Island, managed to graduate in four years despite having to work while attending college. Many of the binge drinkers, she said, "are still there. They may think they're having a good time, but it can take them seven or eight years just to graduate."