By Acadia Otlowski
Students who binge-drink on a regular basis may be happier than students that do not, according to a recent survey conducted at Colgate University this spring.
The research, presented at the meeting of the American Sociological Association, reports that students who drink in excess are more apt to be happier than those who don’t.
Specifically, it was found that happiness in college life was directly related to “social status.” Those who were deemed as holding a higher “status,” Greek-affiliated, white, male, heteorsexual, generally reported being happier than those classified in a “lower status.”
But in those lower class students, it was found that those who binge-drink are happier than their peers. According to the study, which also linked binge-drinking with risky sexual behaviors and poor academic performance, drinking is directly related to status in the college environment.
Almost 1,600 students were surveyed and 64 percent reported binge-drinking, while 34 percent said they did not. Binge-drinking is defined in this study as consuming more than five drinks on one occasion for men, and more than four for woman, at least once in a two-week period.
A good many of the students who responded to the survey reported no real desire to binge drink, but said that social pressure made them feel as if they had to.
“One thing that was a recurrent comment were students who said, ‘Everyone drinks here. … I don’t want to get drunk, but I feel like I don’t belong here if I don’t,’” said Carolyn Hsu, the study researcher.
The findings of the study were severely disturbing for those who conducted it. They do not condone binge-drinking and would like school administrators to use this to design new programs that encourage other forms of social interaction.
“Maybe this is a fantasy, but I do honestly hope that some college students will actually react to this by saying, ‘Okay, I want to rebel against this, I don’t even like those people, I don’t want them to define the college experience for me,'” said Hsu.
Some students at CCSU were skeptical, many not being binge-drinkers themselves.
“I don’t believe that,” said Toby Wasserman, a young woman on campus, “I wonder what their dropout rate is,” she said referring to Colgate University.
Wasserman associated the potential findings with younger students, or those in fraternities.
CCSU officials from the Health and Wellness Center declined to comment.
Meagan Wentz, Office of Alcohol and Drug Education and Wellness Program Administrator, was hesitant to give a comment, saying only that statistics show that students who drink in excess have “higher dropout rates” and are at a higher risk for “accidents.”
Other experts suggest that the findings are not altogether conclusive.
“Since [the study] is descriptive and not experimental, the two end points may not be linked,” says Fulton T. Crews, director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This means that the results may have nothing to do with each other. Other researchers suggest that it could be that binge-drinking and happiness just go together, without being a direct influence on each other.
“This does not mean that the alcohol is what leads to the satisfaction,” says Dr. Richard Saitz, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health.
While feelings of happiness might be higher in those who binge-drink, it is not recommended by experts to do so because of the negative consequences that it can ultimately lead to.