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Attitude, Stress, and Control Walk into a Bar…

Potential influences for excessive binge-drinking behaviors within college students and possible means of relief

 

By: Cailee Mehta

Saturdays at Elon are almost routine. Wake up, rally the troops in the usual uniform: oversized hoodies and fuzzy slippers, and head to Dunkin’. After a good two-hour lounge on the couch watching Disney + and sipping iced lattes, it is time to put on the trendiest “darty” ensemble. And finally, it’s time to commence the drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men within the span of two hours. These drinks being one standard shot, one 5 oz. glass of wine, or a singular beer, so not the usual “mixies” that are concocted for sunny Elon Saturdays.

When students were asked about how they felt about their drinking behaviors, Elon senior, Hannah Burchfield stated, “I think in college, especially at Elon, there is such a vast drinking culture where if you are out you always have to have a drink in your hand or be drinking, which makes its really easy to lose control of drinking and build up a tolerance when your night is consumed with going from one drink to the next until you go home.”

It’s really easy to lose control of drinking.

Additional students emphasized their need to unwind with a bottle of wine or a few beers when their school weeks were extra strenuous. Ultimately, the overall views about drinking around campus revealed that there are multiple variables involved in the college experience that seem to influence binge drinking behavior.

A study published in the Journal of Drug Education: Substance Abuse Research and Prevention explored why students binge drink. About 300 students at a public university were surveyed regarding five different, hypothesized, influences for binge drinking. Questions regarding opinions about drinking were all measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent.  The influences tested were as follows: attitude, subjective norms, perceived control, stress, and loneliness. All of these categories were predicted to increase binge drinking behaviors, except for perceived control.

Two weeks later, these same students were surveyed again about their drinking behaviors over the past couple weeks. Comparisons were drawn between the answers of the two surveys to identify if there was any correlation between the hypothesized influences and binge drinking behavior within the students. The study revealed that a positive attitude towards drinking, less perceived control over drinking, and higher stress levels all lead to increased reports of binge drinking over the two-week period.

Out of the three characteristics that increased binge drinking behavior, attitude was the strongest predictor for binge drinking, followed by stress, and finally by perceived control. And, when you think about it, this trend actually makes a lot of sense in relation to college students and binge drink.

Attitude is contagious. When friends are excited about hitting Fat Frogs or Magerks, there is always an increase in the likelihood you will end up drinking.  Additionally, if we have a lot of upcoming work, our accumulating stress in anticipation of the next week increases binge drinking behaviors, aka we head to the bars on Tuesdays and day drinks on Fridays.  Drinking allows us momentary relief by allowing us to forget about our responsibilities. Finally, those friends who believe they have a stronger control over their drinking habits actually do end up binge drinking less than those friends who believe they have less control over their drinking behaviors (I’m sure you could think of a friend or two).

So now that we have come to a better understanding of why binge drinking is so prevalent in college, is there a way to fix these behaviors?

Rather than immediately being sucked in by our friends’ giddy attitudes towards drinking or believing we have no control over our drinking habits, college students should be made more aware about the ways that attitudes and personal control can positively or negatively affect their drinking behaviors. Additionally, we should gear ourselves towards methods of alleviating our stress rather than concealing it with a vodka soda.  Such approaches could be through means like exercise or relaxation, as shown via the KLEU Institute.

Ultimately, bringing awareness to the reasons college students participate in binge drinking could be the biggest proponent in developing methods to prevent it.  Not only will this information help us feel physically and mentally better, but it could also help us abstain from our toxic drinking behaviors, which would improve our lifestyles overall.

References

CDC – Fact Sheets-Binge Drinking – Alcohol. (2018, October 24). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm.

Chen, Y. Feeley, T.H. (2015) Predicting Binge Drinking in College Students: Rational Beliefs, Stress, or Loneliness? Journal of Drug Education. 45 (3-4). 133-55. doi: 10.1177/0047237916639812.

Kumar, S., Bhanagari, A., Mohile, A., Limaye, A. (2016) Effect of Aerobic Exercises, Yoga and Mental Imagery on Stress in College Students- A Comparative Study.  Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy- An International Journal. 10 (3). 69-74. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5958/0973-5674.2016.00084.8

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