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November 30, 2023

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Survey points to positive social effects from binge drinking in college environment


New research suggests that the effects of binge drinking are not totally negative.

Carolyn Hsu, a professor of sociology at Colgate University in New York, recently presented a paper on a survey she and her colleagues conducted. The paper is in the process of being published.

The survey was distributed at a college in the northeast region of the U.S. It asked students questions regarding their drinking habits and their social satisfaction.

The survey found that students who binge drink are more likely to feel satisfied with their social life.

However, binge drinking does not bring the same kind of social satisfaction for all students. Low status students [students of minority groups] gain particular social benefits from alcohol that high status students [students of dominant social groups] do not gain.

“Low status students who engage in binge drinking seem to be able to access some of the benefits of social satisfaction that usually goes with high status,” according to an email from Hsu. “And conversely, high status students who decide not to binge drink seem to lose some of the benefits of social satisfaction they should expect from their high status.”

While both high status and low status students report higher social satisfaction, low status students gain the extra benefit of being able to feel that they are a part of the high status group.

However, a correlation between binge drinking and social satisfaction does not necessarily mean that drinking is the cause of greater social happiness.

Gary Lee, the chair of the sociology department at the University, thinks there might be an underlying cause that could account for both propensity to drink and greater social fulfillment.

“Binge drinking among college kids is something that is typically done in groups. Those kids have groups. They were doing this with other people. The folks who don’t binge drink certainly also may be members of groups, but maybe not,” Lee said. “I would speculate that it’s not the drinking per se, it’s the social integration that tends to go along with it.”

Some University students agree alcohol is not necessarily satisfying in itself, but is attractive because of its social benefits.

“I wouldn’t say I’m happier [when I binge drink]. It completes the weekend, though. It’s kind of awkward when you’re not drinking at a party,” said Jackson Coolahan, a sophomore who binge drinks,

Emily Fisher, a freshman student who does not drink, agrees with Coolahan that the need to fit in to a social group pressures students to binge drink.

“It’s kind of cliché, but just the whole, ‘everybody else is doing’ [is what motivates students to abuse alcohol]. I know people who binge drink because they got convinced into doing it,” Fisher said.

Hsu intends for the study to help universities find ways to reduce social pressure to drink.

“Our goal is to get the best information to the administrators and deans and other people who are working hard to reduce binge drinking behavior on campuses. We hope they find this [information] useful,” according to an email from Hsu.

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