Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Binge Drinking Students Happier?

While discussing in class the comparisons between correlative and experimental studies and how to detect poorly reported research, I thought back to a newspaper article from August that I found to be startling and questionable. The headline read, "Study Finds Binge Drinking Students Happier" and could be found in many news outlets that day. The AMNY article that I read stated that, " 'Lower status' students -- identified as poor kids, minorities, females, LGBT students and non-frat members -- mimic wealthier, heterosexual, white, male, students by abusing alcohol just like the frat boys, said Colgate University's Carolyn Hsu, co-author of 'Social Status, Binge Drinking, and Social Satisfaction.' " Several things about this stood out, including the detail that regarded females as college minorities and her use of language with "poor kids" and "frat boys", not to mention the fact that she is declaring that alcohol, a depressant, is directly associated to social satisfaction.

I decided to find the root of this research and located this press release from the American Sociological Association detailing the paper in question. I am happy to note that there is clarification in titling these minority groups. As opposed to being considered a literal population minority, these social groups face more harassment and prejudice than their "wealthier, heterosexual, white, male" counterparts. Regardless of this, the nature of the experiment surely demands that the research be correlative instead of experimental, as I am sure that the IRB would not allow for researchers to encourage binge drinking to conduct research. Because it is correlative, it is safe to say that binge drinking does not cause happiness, but rather it is practice amongst the college social elite.

Given that the social elite (in predominantly white, residential campuses with a large presence of Greek life, as the press release outlines) in college also binge drink, what other factors or elements do you think cause their higher levels of social happiness? Do you think that these findings would be identical at Pratt, despite the fact that it is a trade school that does not possess these same qualities?


  1. While I can pretty easily see why students tend to binge drink, and why students who do tend to binge drink may have a better outlook on college life, I think that the action itself would be more an effect, rather than a cause, of what might be called a social superiority. The people who are considered as such are generally people who thrive on social interaction, and it's my belief that the introduction of alcohol simply makes those interactions much more feasible in people who might not have the same confidence. I personally know at least a few people who binge drink themselves, and encourage the people that they meet or take out to do the same just for the sake of making the interaction more pleasant. Some people might look down upon this practice, but I have seen the social results that it garners, and I will say that the people involved are generally happier as a result.

    I don't believe that the alcohol is the only reason however. While these socially successful people that I interact with are generally quite happy, the alcohol isn't the only factor. These people tend also to have strong social personality traits - whether they are funny, or smart, or confident - in everyday life, something that they had before alcohol was even introduced into their lives, and this has attracted people to them for as long as I've known them. I think - in a general sense - the people who are able to more easily interact with others on a regular basis tend to be the happiest, and alcohol is simply a tool which makes these interactions even easier.

    I personally am not so familiar with Pratt's public drinking scene - I tend more to do so with just a couple of close friends. However based on the exposure that I've had, I'd still say that binge drinking is still a fairly large part of the social culture of the students at this school. I hear the same kinds of stories about students getting black-out drunk and having the night of their lives here that I hear at much larger schools like Rutgers or NYU, but again, I believe that it is an effect, rather than a cause - I believe that happy students tend to binge drink, as opposed to binge drinking causes students to be happy.

  2. I agree that confidence is an important factor in this topic. There are so many things that are more acceptable to do when you are drunk. When you binge drink, your social perception is completely altered. The next morning you will have crazy stories to tell about how you might have punched a guy or hopped into a random limo. Some believe that drinking will make them more interesting or more fun. These stories most likely wouldn’t even have taken place if that person were not put the relaxed state drinking provides. I also believe that drinking is mainly an activity for people who are already seeking an active social life. However I do not agree with the article that binge drinking is a direct reason for happiness. The activity of drinking may help someone get the confidence to be more outgoing and feel more accepted resulting in happiness.

    Unlike the school the article is referring to, Pratt students abuse alcohol as a release or to relieve stress. The students mentioned in the article were the ones who had a positive outlook on life and said everything was good. Those who were more stressed and had a higher level of anxiety were actually less likely to drink. Here at Pratt, it’s not only the people who are happy who drink, but also people who are trying to self medicate as well. This study was not done on a broad enough scale for it to be fully accurate.

  3. Alcohol is seemingly the most socially acceptable form of intoxication in our culture. This article focuses only on the drinking culture on campus, without mentioning the fact that binge drinking is not exclusive to college students. Especially in urban areas, going out to a bar or party on weekends seems to be the norm. It is obvious that students would binge drink, given the age of the students and in campus schools in suburban areas where they all live together, confined to their campus. It's accessible, acceptable, and goes hand in hand with social events of any demographic.

    As far as binge drinking being linked to happiness, I think that this is more dependent on the situations that involve binge drinking. People who choose not to drink probably do not feel accepted in the culture of their peers, thus being less happy than those who participate.

  4. I have never had alcohol before but if there is a time that I have to it would probably be for a social gathering. So I am not familiar with being with many drunks, nor can I tell if someone is drunk unless they literally have a bottle in their hand. So I based on what know I see binge drinking not necessarily as a direct cause for happiness but maybe the scenarios that have occurred from being drunk because alcohol is a depressant not a stimulant. However drugs have different effects on people given their conditions so that might explain for those who become happy or sad from drinking. Seeing that alcohol relaxes the body to an extent, it might also explain the happiness in some way. But again that doesn't really mean anything because relaxation doesn't necessarily mean happiness for everyone. Because relaxation can just mean not doing anything, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a moment of emotional extreme. I can see being social as a more plausible cause just because it generally does makes people happy to be around friends. And drinking just might be a conformity factor in that people would just drink because others are as well. So I agree that the study should be correlational not a cause in an experimental study.

    Obviously, I do not belong to the social elite, so I can only speculate. However, my parents being immigrants compared to me being born in America without having to live their hardships, might have insights. My mother pays for my tuition at Pratt on her own while my father is buying my sister a house with his salary. In other words, they are taking care of two families and a college student. From what they told me they had to pay for their own tuition through part time jobs and scholarships and saved up their money so they could buy themselves a house in the suburbs to live independently while still sending money to their parents. A story of hardship. Me nor my sister actually have to worry about any of those because they are doing it for us. My sister and I are generally happy we have no real worries other than what's in front of us, because our parents just do things for us, they provide us with money. We're not social elite rich, good evidence would probably be that we haven't gone on a family vacation in over 15 years in addition to all of this, but at least you know to what extent my parents are willing to go out on a limb for us. So I can only imagine that the social elite college students also rely on their parents only to a greater extent.

  5. Binge Drinking students are probably “happier” because they’re making friends. When anyone drinks, they become a bit looser which makes him or her open up more. If everyone is drinking, than everyone is being more social, and if that's the case, everyone's becoming friends. Like the comment before mentioned, people do things they wouldn’t normally do when they’re drunk. They sometimes use it as an excuse to act like a completely different person. It could be for the better, which is why one can associate the happiness of a student with binge drinking. I think that like any social activity, binge drinking brings people together. That alone can make student feel more comfortable and happy.

  6. Of course, binge drinking can elude to this feeling of "happiness" with this generalization that when you drink you loose your inhibitions and opportunities arise that would not necessarily happen unless you participated in the act. However, I wouldn't say either that it is the main cause of happiness. Sure, your happiness can be elevated by these practices, but one could easily be just as happy without. Personally speaking, I am not going to lie, being a college student I have succumbed to the act of binge drinking and in light I have found myself having a great time at some points, but it doesn't change anything and unfortunately I do know some who binge drink for other reasons, not necessarily to regain happiness, but more so to cover up some of the problems that they face in their lives. Nonetheless, I also know quite a few kids who simply don't drink and are more than happy to be in a social situation and are just as lively and outgoing as some of those who are downing that crappy vodka that cost them fourteen dollars. Not to mention, not every shot or beer you down is going to immediately have some great outcome. I know this is pretty generalized, but I don't necessarily relate binge drinking to happiness rather I believe once again that the activity of drinking can elevate happiness, but its more so the people you surround yourself with. I'm not going to be happy if I am purposely drinking around a bunch of people I hate or dislike since most likely I will just start thinking about how I am going to make matters worse in the end if I can barely handle myself sober in those situations. However, if I were to be with my friends, I'll drink because it does sometimes create those crazy memories that in turn did make me happy in the end. So honestly, it is pretty relative on the person and not a direct influence on whether your happier than a peer who doesn't drink.

  7. At this point I’m probably beating a dead horse, but I agree with many of the previous posts in saying that the happiness derived from college binge drinking both depends on the person and the situation. As Schuyler mentioned, if you’re around a group of people that you dislike or are stuck in an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation, drinking a lot is not going to magically make everything better. On one hand, it could act as a numbing agent and help to make the situation less unpleasant, but on the other hand it could also make you more depressed, since alcohol, after all, is a depressant.

    Also, I think it’s interesting to compare colleges and each student body’s reliance on alcohol. Schools like Penn State and Arizona State are considered heavy party schools because of the amount of binge drinking that goes on. It’s also interesting how, in many cases, the term “party school” rings in as a “fun school.” As mentioned in many of the previous posts, the happiness that comes from drinking is most often related to the wild stories and events that ensue. To many, wilder the story, the better the night, thus producing the feeling of satisfaction and happiness. This happiness, however, has proven to be fleeting, in several cases. Blacking out and going wild has become all too common for many college students and while there may not be as many severe consequences for these actions when in school, once leaving school, these extreme habits become less acceptable and become more of an obstacle in leading a successful life. Something that was once brought happiness and joy, now produces more regret and guilt.

  8. Leaving aside the ethical issue on this hypothetical debate,I believe in order for this study to be truly acceptable, it has to be an experimental study instead of correlational because of the considerable amount of variables that are involved in this kind of a social situation.
    Alcohol is a depressant but in these kinds of social situation it becomes an excuse for reckless behavior and a tool for socializing. Due to its impairing side effects people in this kind of situation end up doing what they would not have normal, therefore finding them selfs in unexplored areas in social interaction, which can be entertaining at times.
    Also, through this perspective the question becomes which groups of people have tendency to put them selfs in these kinds of environments.
    So lets place groups of people from these give different background and stimulate a party environment and see who ever ends up facedown on the floor with a smile on their face. =)

  9. I think I agree with most of the post above me. Human being are the hardest thing to understand, that is why we have a subject named Psychology. And it is even harder to define happiness.
    Binge Drinking can make students happy because they can make friends by doing it and it is relaxing to drink and get away from the pressure from real life. Whoever can drink on a binge in college life probably don't need to worry about money that much and have enough time to enjoy(just don't study architecture and interior if you want to be happy forever). The relaxation and excitement make them happy. However, Binge-drinking is bad for one's health. And that may lead to future sadness. I guess the happiness we define here is just short-term. If the person dislike drinking, that is a totally different story. Uncomfortable, Peer-pressure....blablabla
    I agree with Alihan, and I really think it is necessary to study the inner reason that drinking will make people feel happy, since we can't compare two people's happiness even if we do a experimental study. In a way, we can. But it is so vogue. Instead of doing a sociological analysis of different groups of people from different social classes and backgrounds, why people feel happy when they drink may be the main focus of this study. And I think it could explain why binge drinking students are happier? and maybe not :)