Binge drinking at college is seen as empowering and cool, especially among the students who enjoy high socioeconomic status, a new study says.
Researchers found that wealthy and white heterosexual males were happier about being in the college compared to non-white, homosexual, female or economically challenged students. People from higher status are more likely to binge drink than their less wealthy peers.
"Drinking culture is campus specific. But, our results suggest that binge drinking and social satisfaction may also be very much associated at similar predominately white colleges with high binge drinking rates, a large Greek presence, and a residential campus," said Carolyn L. Hsu, co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University.
They also found that people from a lower status resort to binge drinking to get the same levels of social satisfaction as the people having a higher socioeconomic status.
The study included more than 1,500 students who were enrolled in liberal arts colleges in Northeast in 2009.
Participants were surveyed and their levels of alcohol consumption and frequency were assessed. Researchers describe binge drinking as consuming five drinks for men and 4 drinks for women in a single drinking session.
Researchers found that people, who reported themselves as binge drinkers, had drinking sessions at least twice a month. In the present study, binge drinkers had about 13 drinks per week while non-binge drinkers had about 4 drinks per week.
In addition to information about drinking sessions, the survey also asked participants to evaluate their college experience.
"Among all groups, we found that binge drinking and social satisfaction were strongly connected," Hsu said.
But, binge drinking doesn't act as a shield against social adversity. Instead, college students who had high levels of depression or stress were less likely to drink. "It's the kids who say everything is great who drink the most," Hsu said.
Researchers found that people who binge drink had higher levels of other health and interpersonal problems.
"It's not that binge drinking is the solution to complex social problems. Rather, it is our hope that when universities and public health professionals design alcohol related programs for students, they take into account the full range and important social motivations underlying student binge drinking," Hsu said.
The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.