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I'll Have Another, Please: Binge-Drinking makes for a Happy Collegiate

Update Date: Aug 20, 2012 08:17 AM EDT

No matter what your focus is in college you can be sure that one thing will stick upon graduation: how to hold (and keep down) your alcohol.

Binge drinking is a right of passage for those of us who have attended and with it comes the knowledge and appreciation of "The Limit--" you know, when you start chugging water instead of beer.

Besides the de-stressing affects that alcohol can have for a group of college kids at the end of finals, Denver based researchers have concluded that compared to their non-drinking peers, binge-drinkers are far happier with their over-all college social experience.

Though binge-drinking may sound synonymous to attempted alcohol poisoning, researchers define the act 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.

It is also, according to Carolyn L. Hsu, co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University, a "symbolic proxy for high status in college."

"It's what the most powerful, wealthy, and happy students on campus do," says Hsu. "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."

The findings, which will be presented at the 107th Annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), indicate that students from higher status groups (i.e., wealthy, male, white, heterosexual, and Greek affiliated undergraduates) were consistently happier with their college social experience than their peers from lower status groups (i.e., less wealthy; female; non-white; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ); and non-Greek affiliated undergraduates), according to sources from ASA.

This is because, according to the study, binge drinking and social satisfaction may be closely associated at predominately white colleges with high binge drinking rates, a large Greek presence, and a residential campus.

The study results were based on a survey of nearly 1,600 undergraduates attending a selective Northeastern residential liberal arts college in 2009.

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.

Results showed that while binge drinking increased social satisfaction for students from a range of lower status groups, the positive effects of binge drinking on social satisfaction were particularly strong for low income, non-Greek affiliated, and female students. LGBTQ and minority binge drinking students enjoyed increased social satisfaction in college, but were not as socially satisfied as their binge drinking peers from higher and other lower status groups.

"Minority students and members of the LGBTQ community, more than other low status students, often face discrimination and struggle with their sense of belonging on predominately white, heterosexual campuses," Hsu said. "This may be lessening the potential ameliorating impact of binge drinking on low status."

Nevertheless researchers found that regardless of race, gender, sexual identity or socioeconomic status the connection between binge drinking and satisfaction with the college social experience, remained consistent.

"Students in all groups consistently liked college more when they participated in the campuses' binge drinking culture," Hsu said.

I'll cheers to that.

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