​College Binge Drinkers Become Happier With High Status

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August 21, 2012

College student who are binge drinkers are apparently happier with their social lives than students who don’t because it gives them high status, but they do risk the effects on the brain, according to new research.

The study found that binge drinkers reported having the greatest social satisfaction in college, and while alcohol is a depressant, it makes these students happier because of school recognition.

However, the study also cites earlier research linking the problems of alcohol to poor academic performance, violence, risky sexual behaviors and the development of alcohol dependence. The authors note that alcohol-education programs have made young people well aware of those likely outcomes, yet students look the other way.

Aiming to tease out the relationships between students’ social status, their satisfaction with school life and their drinking, the researchers surveyed nearly 1,600 students at what the paper describes as a selective residential liberal arts college in the Northeast.

Among those students, 64 percent reported binge drinking and 36 percent said they weren’t binge drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than four drinks on one occasion for women, and more than five for men, at least once during a two-week period.

They found that students who were in high-status groups — wealthy, white, male, participating in Greek life — were more satisfied socially than those in low-status groups — less wealthy, racial minorities, female, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ), not participating in a fraternity or sorority.

The study further found that high-status students were far more likely than low-status students to have multiple drinks. It also found that low-status students could boost their social satisfaction so it was about the same as that of high-status students. Conversely, high-status students who didn’t binge drink had lower levels of social satisfaction than did high-status binge drinkers.

The study found that binge drinkers didn’t typically engage in the practice to mitigate unhappiness or combat anxiety, but rather to improve their social standing by behaving the way students of high social status behaved.