Community Organizations Need to Provide “Socially-Empowering Alternatives” to Binge Drinking, says Faith-based Website

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A new study links college binge drinking to social satisfaction; faith-based website, followme.org, says the study sheds light on how community organizations must transform their strategies for combating binge drinking.

For community organizations to effectively combat binge drinking among college students, they must grasp students’ true motivations for drinking, says faith-based website, followme.org.

That statement came today in response to a new study that identifies binge-drinking college students as more socially satisfied than their non-drinking peers.

According to these findings, students who are part of socially-powerful “high-status” groups are more likely to binge drink than their less socially-powerful classmates. These “high status” students are reportedly much happier than their non-drinking “high status” peers, and the same goes for “low status” students, the study’s authors reported to the American Sociological Association last week.

Carolyn Hsu, an associate professor of sociology at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, presented the findings to the ASA’s annual meeting in Denver over the weekend. The study analyzes the results of a 2009 survey of 1,600 college students at one liberal arts college in the northeastern United States, the US News and World Report said. Sixty-four percent of those students self-identified as binge-drinkers, Hsu said.

According to Hsu, “binge drinking” is defined as consuming four (for women) or five (for men) drinks in a single session at least once within a two-week period, reported the Washington Post.

“The study reveals that if you want to understand college binge drinking, you need to understand that college students are reacting to the local campus social situation,” Hsu told US News and World Report. “On campuses with a persistently high level of binge drinking, students engage in binge drinking because binge drinking is associated with high status and with social satisfaction.”

A common perception is that unhappy students are drawn to binge drinking with the hopes of resolving their unhappiness. However, this study suggests that binge-drinking students understand the usefulness of binge drinking in improving their social status and social satisfaction, the Washington Post reported.

Hsu and her research team believe that the association of binge drinking with status offers one explanation for why college campuses have been so ineffective at eliminating binge drinking. Hsu hopes to draw attention to the “important social motivations” that underlie binge drinking on college campuses nationwide, said the Washington Post report.

How might Hsu’s findings affect community organizations working to reduce binge drinking on college campuses? Followme.org is a faith-based website that provides resources for college students hoping to escape the trend of binge drinking. Today, Pastor Jamie of followme.org said Hsu’s findings are a “mixed blessing.”

“On the one hand, this study sheds light on motivations underlying binge drinking. On the other hand, this study reveals a deep-seated misperception among college students: that binge drinking will make them happier. Community organizations, non-profits, and churches hoping to stem the tide of binge drinking need to work with universities to provide socially-empowering, enriching alternatives to binge drinking,” he said.

Hsu would seem to agree with that analysis. “The goal of our study is to help those who want to lower binge-drinking rates to be more effective at their job. We also want to empower those students who don’t really want to binge drink, but feel like it’s ‘the thing to do,’” she told US News and World Report.

Interestingly, Hsu found that non-drinking students involved in religious organizations were more socially satisfied than their non-involved peers, according to LiveScience.

Hsu’s findings are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Jeff White
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