Stress and Binge Drinking: Does one cause the other?

Our beloved Penn State University was just placed in the top 10 of a category we don’t want to be in: Most Stressed Out Student Bodies (University Primetime). Out of all the thousands of schools in this country, Penn State was ranked 6th overall, above Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, and just about every other university. We also took the #1 overall spot in a very different one of University Primetime’s lists: Top Party Schools. Could these two be related? A new study done by Canadian scientists says that could be very possible.



Researchers from Queen’s University sought to discover if there was a correlation between acute stress (stress caused by situations or events) and alcohol consumption, specifically among college students. Their study consisted of 75 students separated into 3 groups. One received unlimited amounts of alcohol, the other a placebo that tasted and looked exactly the same, and the last received a specified nonalcoholic drink. They were all put through the Trier Social Stress Test, which was deigned to provoke feelings of anxiety and stress. By testing the student’s stress levels before during and after the experiment, the researchers were able to determine that the students consumed substantially more alcohol while facing high levels of acute stress. However, those consuming the nonalcoholic drink and the placebo showed no increase in consumption after their stress levels rose. These findings led the researchers to conclude that the amount of alcohol being consumed by college students could very well be due to the high levels of acute stress they are put under. This would explain Penn State’s placement on both the Top Party School and Most Stressed Out Student Body list.


Most people would agree that both high stress levels and binge drinking are bad things. The question is, how do we fix this problem? It seems to me like the root of the problem is stress, so making alcohol less easily accessible should not be the answer. Closing down bars and making complicated rules about where and when alcohol can be purchased will not solve this problem. Instead this university, as well as universities across the country, should work on reducing the stress levels of their students. Creating a low stress environment on campus will promote healthier drinking habits among students.

While we all see Penn State as #1, we shouldn’t strive for first in every category. The combination of stress and alcohol is harming our student body. Alcohol poisoning, alcohol related sexual assaults, suicide, and many other serious issues that plague our university could be reduced by looking into this study and by making real changes on campus to reduce stress levels. A less stressed student body is better for the students, faculty, and the people of State College.

I view this as a very important issue and I’d love to hear some of my classmates views on the subject. Do you have any ideas on how to reduce the stress levels here on campus? Do you think stress is the true cause of binge drinking among students? Let me know in the comments section.


1 thought on “Stress and Binge Drinking: Does one cause the other?

  1. Lauren Hile

    Great blog post! I agree with you that removing alcoholic substances from the campus and making it harder to get them downtown is not the answer, although if the test resulted from a reverse causation, I suppose that it might help. Needless to say, I believe that the campus needs to address students’ stress. One possible solution could be having a fall break, sometime in the middle of October. A lot of other universities do this, and while it would make our Thanksgiving breaks shorter, we wouldn’t have to go from Labor Day to Thanksgiving without a break in our school work. Even having just two or three days off in the middle of October where we don’t have to go to classes would be invaluable to our stress levels. I think it would also help us do better in our classes leading up to Thanksgiving break because we wouldn’t be as tired and stressed from all of the work. John Hopkins University, the least stressed school according to the study you found, has a fall break, so maybe there’s a correlation there.

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