Quick Study: Binge Drinking May Be the Most Depressing Road to Happiness for College Students

Binge drinking could improve students' social status, making them more content.

Binge drinking, college, college campus
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The study: Binge drinking could be how some college students achieve social satisfaction and happiness, a study finds. Researchers surveyed 1,595 students on a liberal arts campus in the Northeast to evaluate their drinking behavior, level of contentment, and place in the pecking order. They found that students who were female, poorer, of color, LGBTQ, didn’t belong to fraternities or sororities and didn’t binge drink had lower levels of social satisfaction than their peers who did binge drink.

Also, students who were part of prestigious groups who didn’t binge drink were less happy than their cohorts who did. Those who were in low-status groups who binge drank had the same level of social satisfaction as students in high-status groups. The study was presented recently at the American Sociological Assn.’s annual meeting in Denver.

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What we already know: Binge drinking (consuming four drinks for women and five drinks for men at a time) is a huge problem on some college campuses. A 2008 Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs study found that 44 percent of students who attend a four-year school binge drink. In recent years some schools have implemented programs to raise awareness of binge drinking, which other studies have shown can lead to worse grades, violence, and dangerous sexual behavior.

What this means for you: The study authors warn that drinking to attain social status in college is a “self-destructive strategy” and shouldn’t be considered a one-way ticket to happiness. Whatever might be gained in terms of having a great social life doesn’t cancel out the negative effects of drinking. “We…want to empower those students who don't really want to binge drink, but feel like it's 'the thing to do,’ ” lead author Carolyn Hsu of Colgate University told U.S. News and World Report.

Is or was drinking a big part of your college experience? Let us know in the comments.

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