ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled College is saved to My Colleges.

Get Advice & Insights

Articles / Admissions / Does College Binge Drinking = Happiness?

May 17, 2020

Does College Binge Drinking = Happiness?

I started a thread on the College Confidential discussion forum about the purpose of college. Is that purpose education or employment credentials? That contention has inspired some spirited opinions. However, there may be a stealth third option for the purpose of college: fun, and by extension, happiness. Have you ever seen the movie Animal House? This pretty much covers the topic of fun (and happiness) at college. Of course, the hub of the wheel at hypothetical "Faber College" (where Animal House's Delta fraternity is located) is alcohol. Remember this advice from Bluto to Flounder after a particularly harrowing road trip to "Emily Dickinson College"? "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily." Or how about Dean Wormer's admonition to the Delta crew upon arriving for a surprise visit: "Well, well, well. Looks like somebody forgot there's a rule against alcoholic beverages in fraternities on probation!"

So, what are the consequences of drinking (not only just "drinking," but binge drinking) in college, other than hangovers and stinky clothes? Well, a new study says that happiness may be one positive consequence. Interesting, eh? Parents reading this may cringe when they think about their son or daughter being more on the sunny side of the street if they (the son or daughter) are located, mouth agape, beneath the spigot of a beer keg. Welcome to reality, this new study implies.



The study is entitled "Binge Drinking College Students Are Happier Than Their Non-Binge Drinking Peers" and was presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, Aug. 17-20 this year (2012).

Here are a few highlights to whet your whistle, so to speak.

Why do some colleges have persistently high levels of binge drinking? It may be because, at these schools, binge drinking is associated with high status and binge drinkers are happier with their college social experience than their non-binge drinking peers, suggests new research to be presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“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." . . .

. . . However, the study found that when students from lower status groups engaged in binge drinking, their social satisfaction was higher than that of their non-binge drinking peers from lower status groups and more similar to

the levels of their higher status classmates, including binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers. Hsu said binge drinking tended to attenuate the negative effects of being from a low status group on students' college social experience.

Conversely, white, wealthy, Greek affiliated, heterosexual, and male students who did not binge drink, were less happy with their social lives than students from those groups that did binge drink. . . .

. . . Interestingly, the researchers did not find evidence that unhappy students were binge drinking to self medicate. Instead, the students in the sample with the most stress, anxiety, and experiences with discrimination or sexual abuse, were the least likely to drink. “It's the kids who say everything is great who drink the most," Hsu said.

The authors found that students saw binge drinking as a logical means to adapt, survive, and seek out the most favorable life while in college. “Low status students in particular seem to be using binge drinking as a vehicle for

social mobility and as a way to contend with an otherwise hostile social environment," 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."

***

For a fuller understanding of the study's implications, I strongly recommend that you read the entire report. Also, feel free to read and enter in the comments on the College Confidential discussion forum's related thread. Of course, college binge drinking does have a down side, as Kent "Flounder" Dorfman noted in Animal House: "I can't believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer." To which Boon replies, "Face it, Kent. You threw up "on" Dean Wormer."

**********

Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

A-Z College Forums

Browse the College Forums
C1E9D4E7-C4C9-4B28-8946-8F441A6D62B3

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.