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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is Binge Drinking Really Tied To College Happiness?

This week many college students headed to or back to their college campuses. Of course, not all college students go away to college, many attend college in their own communities, many live in dorms, or apartments and some continue living at home. But no matter where the student resides, college is supposed to be about higher learning. Higher learning is not just about tackling difficult new subjects, but learning about yourself, learning about self-discipline, learning about self-control, managing your time, managing your budget, managing class assignments, learning about how you will fit into society, getting along with a diverse group of people, setting goals and defining your vision of your adult life. While learning you continue to grow physically, emotionally, and importantly your brain continues to develop well into your mid-20s.With all this learning comes inward growth which can include what drives you, what challenges you, what focuses you, what saddens you and what ultimately makes you happy. In one word, we call this process maturation.

Scientists like to study college students, perhaps because this age group is easily approachable and because they are still developing. This fact alone allows scientists to do comparison studies a few years down the road. This week a new study was presented at a meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The study was authored by Professor Carolyn L. Hsu of Colgate University and Landon Reid, a former Colgate faculty member.  The report is titled: "Binge Drinking College Students Are Happier Than Their Non-Binge Drinking Peers".  Their study looked specifically at social status and how it relates to binge drinking.

According to ASA News:
"Binge drinking is defined as consuming at least four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a single drinking session. Binge drinkers have this kind of drinking session at least once every 14 days on average. In this study, the average binge drinker drank 13.7 drinks per week, while the average non-binge drinker consumed 4.2 drinks per week. The authors assessed social satisfaction using survey questions that asked students to evaluate their overall social experience on campus."
Here are some details from the study:
  • 1,595 students were surveyed.
  • The survey was taken at a northeastern liberal arts college.
  • 64% at this college participate in binge drinking.
  • High-status students (authors defined as white, wealthy, male, heterosexual and involved in the college Greek system) were more apt to binge drink than lower status students (authors defined as minorities, poorer, female, not heterosexual and not in the Greed system).
  • Those high-status students who didn't binge drink reported less social satisfaction than those who did.
  • Additionally, even students in the lower status groups who did binge drink said they experienced more social satisfaction than those who didn't.
So now what do we do with this information. Rhetorically we might ask: is this what happiness has come down to? Have we reached the point that what defines happiness for young people is the opportunity to binge drink? Hopefully, not. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that a study like this prompts all age groups to examine their own behaviors and to ask questions. Enjoying life really should be about more than binge drinking.

Do you want to learn more about college drinking? We invite you to visit the Center for Disease Control's binge drinking page and another informative website College Drinking - Changing the Culture. Consider this:
"At least 1,400 college student deaths a year are linked to alcohol...high-risk drinking also results in serious injuries, assaults, and other health and academic problems, and is a major factor in damage to institutional property. The relative scarcity of headlines about college drinking belies an important fact: the consequences of excessive college drinking are more widespread and destructive than most people realize. While only isolated incidents tend to make news, many school presidents conclude that these pervasive, albeit less obvious, problems are occurring on their campuses at the same time. It is a persistent and costly problem that affects virtually all residential colleges, college communities, and college students, whether they drink or not."

In closing, we hope our readers will take the time to read the related articles offered below. We hope that as college age individuals mature they will take the time to realize that the disease of addiction can forever impact your life physically, emotionally, financially and in your ongoing personal relationships. Below you will see a video of one parent's story. This past March, NBC's Today program interviewed Angie Ammon who lost her college age daughter, Molly, as a result of alcohol poisoning.

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