College Social Status Linked to Binge Drinking
Jim LiebeltJim Liebelt's Blog
- 2012 Aug 23
New research presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association reports that college students who binge drink are happier than their non-binge drinking college peers.
The researchers pointed out that social status appears to be directly linked to binge drinking, leaving non-binge drinkers feeling outside of some important social circles.
In a press release issued by the American Sociological Association, Carolyn L. Hsu, co-author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University states that, "Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for high status in college. It's what the most powerful, wealthy, and happy students on campus do. This may explain why it's such a desirable activity. When lower status students binge drink, they may be trying to tap into the benefits and the social satisfaction that those kids from high status groups enjoy. And, our findings seem to indicate that, to some extent, they succeed."
The results of the study are based on a 2009 survey of approximately 1,600 undergraduates at an exclusive Northeastern residential liberal arts college that required anonymity for use of the data in the study.
One significant finding of the survey was the social importance of alcohol at the level of consumption defined as binge drinking used by students as a way of “fitting in” within particular social circles where heavy drinking is considered “cool.”
In the study, binge drinking at the college averaged at 13.7 drinks per week, whereas non-binge drinking averaged at 4.2 drinks per week.
What the data revealed was that the heaviest drinkers were the happiest drinkers. In this instance, happiness is equated with respect to social satisfaction at the school. More surprising, however, was that while it can be expected that individuals from lower status groups may experience less social satisfaction, their social satisfaction increases to levels near those of both binge and non-binge drinking higher status classmates once they begin to engage in heavy drinking.