New study suggests correlation between alcohol consumption and greater social satisfaction

According to a study released by Northeastern University on ABC News, reports say that binge drinking college students are generally happier than their non-binge drinking counterparts. It’s a pretty shocking result for health experts, whose studies have shown that binge drinking only has negative health effects.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 92 percent of Americans report binge-drinking in the past 30 days. In addition, the CDC also reports that 70 percent of all of the binge drinking in the United States is done by adults aged 26 and older, not college students.
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We all know college students binge drink and that the health effects as a result can be damaging. The CDC lists, among its negative health effects, unintended pregnancy, STD’s, alcohol poisoning, liver disease, sexual dysfunction, neurological damage, unintentional injuries, high blood pressure and stroke. None of these things seem to be the earmarks of happy college students, so what gives?

According to the ABC News report, “Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for higher social status in college and is correspondingly related to greater social satisfaction,” writes Carolyn Hsu, lead author on the study and chair of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University.

In laymen’s terms, it seems to mean that the age-old ‘drinking to fit in’ stereotype still exists, with students who do binge drink to perceive their social status and standing to be higher than that of a student who doesn’t go out all weekend to drink.

Another thing to look at here is the socioeconomic status of the students in the study who were asked about their general happiness. As the study reports, “Specifically, the survey revealed that happiness was directly related to ‘status’ — with wealthy, white, male, heterosexual and/or Greek-affiliated students being happier than ‘lower status’ students.”

It’s a sad thing to think about–that the ability to buy a handle of vodka is equivalent to getting into a country club in terms of social status. Not all students can get into the club, but it seems as though they are certainly happier if they do.

One thing to blame for this is the advertising for alcohol. Most of the advertisements seen in magazines and on the television for alcohol all show the same thing–young, attractive people, our age, having an amazing time at a party or some sort of social function, implying that it’s with the help of the alcohol that they’re advertising.

For instance, for some brands of alcohol, it’s all about the maintenance of the image they’re trying to sell. Ketel One vodka is sold to the elite businessman, with its slogan, “Gentlemen, this is vodka.”

A few years ago, SKYY vodka put out an ad for its alcohol with a man in a business suit standing over a highly sexualized woman, wearing only a swimsuit.

This is the type of advertising that worries me. The adage “sex sells” is a tried and true formula to selling a product, but alcohol industries need to understand the danger of what they’re doing. Showing the upper echelon, high class society indulging in alcohol at a social function sends the wrong message to college students: that to fit in, they need money and they need to drink.

College students also need to understand how easily manipulated we are. Understand the images that the alcohol companies are trying to sell. What do these images say about our society? About how we function in social settings?

It’s easy to place all the blame on effective alcohol advertising, but what the companies are doing is dangerous. Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed on the dangers of binge drinking, so as not to make it look so inviting to young people. The throwaway tag of “Drink responsibly” at the end of a Budweiser commercial isn’t even remotely enough to make people understand what it means.

In addition, this study should not be looked at as the end-all for the psychological health of students who drink. The study was taken at Northeastern in 2012, with approximately 2,000 student surveyed.

This is a sampling of the college population, so the findings may not be 100 percent accurate for the entire population. I would have liked to have seen the break down of the socioeconomic groups of the students, the amount of females surveyed versus males or what other activities the students were involved in on campus.

Nevertheless, I’m taking the study at face value, it serving as a microcosmic example of a larger social problem.

As far as the problem itself, I’m not saying “don’t drink” because that’s the easy solution. Everyone is going to drink anyway. Students need to be able to assess the imagery from the media that they are soaking in every day and understand what it means.

We don’t have to take the images we see in the media and impress those values onto ourselves. In order to feel socially accepted, college students shouldn’t feel forced to fork over their money so they can drink every weekend so they can fit in.

We’re living in a false reality of trying to live up to these glamorized lifestyles without realizing the negative health effects that they don’t show in those alcohol commercials.

So while you’re trying to drink with everyone else just to fit in, are you really happy or pretending to be someone you’re not? Be smart about how you’re consuming media and realize what effect it truly has on your life, your health and your friends.



Whitney Cyr can be contacted at

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