By Emily Reynolds
The drinking culture is a big part of the university. Freshers’ Week events are often almost all about getting drunk. A 2018 survey by the National Union of Students found that 76% of respondents expect students to “drink to get drunk”. 79% agreed that “drinking and getting drunk” is an integral part of university culture.
However, this is not for everyone: a quick search of student forums reveals that many young people in front of university are concerned about a drinking culture that they do not want to participate in British Journal of Health Psychology, written by Dominic Conroy of the University of East London and his team, took a closer look at the choices that students make to reduce their alcohol consumption – and what prevents them from doing so.
Participants were ten UK students, all of whom had experienced a transition in their drinking habits that decreased or stopped. Students had different levels and patterns of drinking: some were light drinkers or totally tea-drinkers, while others were more moderate drinkers.
The students participated in semi-structured interviews with one of the authors of the paper and answered open-ended questions related to their drinking. Two “dilemmas” emerged from the responses of the participants: They wanted to drink less, but were concerned about the social impact and wanted to reduce something, but are concerned about social trust and are missing out on the fun.
The solution to the first dilemma – wanting to reduce but be concerned about social impact – was seen as “important but difficult to achieve” for participants: not drinking was often accompanied by the built-in assumption that the person was “not interested at all.” To socialize ”. One participant described how during Freshers’ Week he only engaged in drinking games to create social connections: “I think it would have been harder to make friends if I had avoided drinking completely,” he said.
Several participants wanted to see the connections between early sociability and the potential for friendship in the years to come. Drinking in the early stages of university was often part of this process. This balancing act wasn’t always easy: One participant, Kelly, said that being open to her drinking preferences led people to “make” [her] feel weird ”and that her relationship with her roommates was“ quite difficult ”because of it.
The second dilemma – the lack of fun and social confidence from alcohol – also featured prominently in participants’ reports on university life. Alice told the team that “I’m so much more in control as a sober person … sometimes I think I’d have more fun if I was pissed off and less inhibited,” citing alcohol as a source of fun, fond memories, and abandon .
Other participants, more moderate drinkers who had cut down, had a similar longing for alcohol fun – but faced another dilemma of drinking less than before or just getting drunk as usual. Here the students felt trapped in a binary, either drinking a lot or not drinking anything.
The study had a small sample size and was not quantitative, so it’s difficult to get an idea of how lots Students may feel this way or be forced to compromise in the interests of their social lives. However, the lessons learned from the interviews suggest a more complex picture of drinking at university than is sometimes understood.
There is a clear (and perhaps unsurprising) thread through the realizations that peer pressure or social norms cause students to drink or drink more than one wants or intends to. One remarkable testimony indicated that students who do this give and take little to do drink, with those who drink very little being forced to compromise instead. Those who do not drink also miss out on social contacts and fear that they will miss out on the fun.
Paying attention to these two major dilemmas and the individual topics they contain can be a way of understanding the problems students face while studying related to alcohol, drug use, and peer pressure. The team notes that the students surveyed often (possibly inadvertently) exhibited a “sober, curious” attitude towards drinking, an approach that has caught on in the media in recent years. Promoting such an approach that rejects strict dichotomies can be a way to help students manage their alcohol consumption in the way that feels right for them while shifting the norms about alcohol.
– ‘Maturing Out’ as dilemmatic: transitions to relatively light drinking practices among students at British universities
Emily Reynolds is an associate at BPS Biomedarticles