Even prior to stepping foot on a college campus I was made very aware of the excessive drinking that takes place. It wasn’t till l came to college that I understood college student’s need to binge drink. As a Sophomore I have sort of become desensitized to drunken students wobbling down the street every weekend and I do not even bat an eye when I see someone passed out in the hallway of the residence halls. Has alcohol abuse become normalized on college campuses all over the world? I say yes. The entire culture of college encourages drinking and “turning up” as if it’s an Olympic feat.
Why is that? Is there a link between the stress of college and the amount of binge drinking college students partake in?
College Students Under Stress Turn To Alcohol
There were some new findings discovered by a team of Canadian researchers, in their study titled “Acute Stress Increases Voluntary consumption of Alcohol in Undergraduates” This study discovered that the presence of short term or acute stress had an impact on the amount of alcohol consumed by college students in their undergrad. This study indicated that students studying in higher education institutions experience greater, elevated level’s of acute stress caused by financial burdens, the extreme workload, and/or the copious amount of exams (Robotham and Julian, 2006).
Additionally, figures compiled by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism depict that more than 40 percent students in undergraduate institutions in America binge drink at least once in a a 2 week span. I’ll however argue that, that number significantly doubles the bigger the students on campus. Here at Penn State for example, I’ll bet that our students will attest to drinking once or twice every week; what we here at Penn State call “Mad Max Monday’s”, “Turn up Tuesday’s”, “Thirsty Thursday’s “and etc.
Acute Stress and College Drinking
Acute Stress is broadly described by psychologist and mental health professionals alike as a type of stress associated with situations or events happening in the present or near-future, along with recent past events and situations. Some indicators of this short term form of stress are; the “stress emotions” (depression, irritability, anger and/or anxiety). These individuals who continually experience acute stress reactions are said to have a separate and more severe form of stress exposure known as episodic acute stress. This I argue is what most college students have.
“I’m stressed, I need a Drink”
Researchers at Queen’s University, in the study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, used results they accumulated from a small experiment containing 75 individuals to gauge the impact that acute stress has on the binge drinking that college students partake in during a drinking session. These subjects were all college students in their undergrad years between the ages of 17 and 23. In their study, these researchers used a procedure called the Trier Social Stress Test to provoke and measure acute stress reactions in participants.
In this study, some of the students had unlimited access to alcohol where others had unlimited access to the placebo -which was designed to look and taste just like alcohol or a identified non alcoholic drink. They prompted these students to participate in a half hour drinking session. After the study the researchers concluded that the students with access to alcohol substantially increased the amount they drank after they were exposed to acute stress. However, neither the subjects who received the placebo or the ones receiving the clearly identified ‘non-alcoholic beverage’ had an increase in their level of consumption when exposed to acute stress levels. So based on their findings, the conclusion was that stress levels have a significant impact on the amount of alcohol consumed by college students in a typical drinking session.
What this goes to prove is that there is a correlation, not a causation -given there’s other mitigating factors, between the amount of stress college students withstand in higher education and the amount of drinking they participate in.
in simpler terms, Universities are helping to turn our students into alcoholics.
If interested in this conversation further, here’s a study on the Prevalence of binge drinking and associated behaviours among 3286 college students in France. A paper on the Influences of Stress and Beliefs on Alcohol Use. As well as a study disagreeing with the points I made, concluding that there is no relationship between high stress levels and harmful alcohol use, based on research done on 221undergraduate students in Botswana.
A meta-analysis of all the studies shows that there isn’t one definitive answer. Some studies say that the stress of college is a huge factor in college students binge drinking and dangerous alcohol use, while other say there isn’t a direct causation between the two (that there are third confounding variables; relationships, home-sickness, peer-pressure, etc.)