How Much Does College Culture Really Influence Binge Drinking?

Aug 5 • Alcohol Abuse • 2626 Views • Comments Off on How Much Does College Culture Really Influence Binge Drinking?

Despite the fact that fewer young people are abusing alcohol, the problem of binge drinking on college campuses has continued to grow. It may not surprise most to learn that alcohol is the No. 1 abused substance on college campuses.

However it may take some by surprise to learn that nearly 40 million Americans binge drink each month and many of them are doing so while living at college. Young people between the ages of 18 and 34 are the biggest binge-drinking demographic in the nation.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more successive drinks for a woman and five or more for a man. Differing body metabolisms explain the difference between how binging is defined for men and women. However, a couple of studies reveal that it is really the college environment that  has the greatest effect on how much drinking takes place between a student’s freshman and senior years.

Peer’s Influence

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that even though peers have a tremendous amount of influence on a person’s drinking habits; it is the presence of cheap alcohol and little law enforcement that drives binge-drinking behavior. Based on self-reporting by more than 450,000 American adults, the CDC has revealed binge drinking to be a growing problem here in the U.S. More than 80,000 U.S. deaths are cause by binge drinking every year and more than 50 percent of them are young adults.

A second study, this one conducted at Harvard, also found that environmental conditions on and around a university campus contribute significantly to the drinking habits among students. If the college is surrounded by liquor stores, if the college is known for a culture of drinking and if the campus or town offers little law or policy enforcement,  drinking tends to be more prevalent.  The promotion of alcohol through cheap prices and advertised specials was another environmental factor that seemed to contribute to alcohol consumption by students.

College students who binge are more apt to experience academic problems, engage in risky sex, suffer relationship conflicts, drive dangerously, undergo injury and/or take part in illegal behavior.  While heavy drinking does not appear to persist after college, poor judgment can lead to decisions that affect a lifetime. Automobile accidents, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases or a criminal record don’t go away when the person receives a diploma.

Effects on Those Surrounding College Campuses

Binge drinking does not harm only the individual, it also harms others. Other students and townspeople become victims of vandalism, are injured, are sexually assaulted or at the very least have their sleep and study time disrupted when a culture of binge drinking exists. The Harvard study found that colleges and universities that create an environment that does not support drinking tended to experience less drinking among the student body.

This seems to be a case of personal and corporate responsibility. Students must take responsibility for their actions. But colleges that make the effort to discourage drinking and access to alcohol really can make a difference in the drinking culture of the student body.

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