Study Links Higher Social Status with College Binge Drinking

College Students: Looking for a higher social status? Then you might be a perfect test study for binge drinking, according to a recent study.

The American Sociological Association presented new research at its 2012 annual meeting that linked increased binge drinking with attaining a higher social status as a key goal among college students who binge drink.

The study showed that binge drinking was more prevalent among more socially powerful students. As a result, that association of a higher social profile and more drinking became the instigator for other (less socially powerful) students to also binge drink to be like the other ‘cool’ students on campus.

The news may draw concern among parents who want their sons and daughters in college to be choosing majors rather than seeking a higher social status through binge drinking opportunities. The consequences can be disastrous, according to the College Task Force report to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

College drinking among students 18-25 leads to 1,825 deaths nearly 600,000 injuries, 696,000 assaults and 97,000 cases of date rape on college campuses each year.

Carolyn Hsu, the study’s co-author and associate professor of sociology at Colgate University, remarked that “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 2009 study was conducted among nearly 1,600 students’ responses from a small liberal Northeastern US college, according to Fox News. Researchers found that high-status binge drinkers were happier with their social lives than non-binge drinking high-status students. And at the same, lower level, low-status students who binge drank had higher social satisfaction than their non-binging peers.

Parents have reason to worry. The Orlando Sentinel wrote that 44 percent of all college students binge drink and many suffer alcohol-induced blackouts, according to national surveys conducted by Harvard School of Public Health.

What can parents do? In many cases, their sons and daughters are miles away at the college or university. There are tips available for parents to help their kids combat the peer pressure of binge drinking:

  • Speak to your kids about alcohol and drug related activities
  • Make clear the consequences that wrong decisions can have on the rest of their lives
  • Speak to them as emerging, responsible adults who have to be in control of their lives
  • Avoid using slang, and don’t talk your own youthful indiscretions with alcohol or drugs
  • Make sure they know the penalties for underage or excessive drinking

The site offers up some ideas to move the culture of drinking away from student activities. If groups like this one and other campus-local groups have their way, a new tradition of control over non-drinking student activities may take hold.

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