Why is harmful drinking so engrained in student life?
What happened to a few quiet ones?
It is time that we faced up to our culture of excessive drinking, and being congratulated for it.
Although alcohol enters the lives of young people long before they continue their education at university, there seems to be an increased pressure to misuse alcohol. This undoubtedly kicks off during Fresher’s week. Guzzling down ‘dirty mixes’ as echoes of “Down it fresher!” ring through your ears, along with a week of student union nights dedicated to breaking in your liver, which are perhaps not at the crux of this issue, but certainly arise from a student culture dedicated to testing the indestructibility of youth.
Essentially, when did the dance-floor become a platform for alcoholism rather than the place to have a boogie with the full cooperation of your limbs?
According to the department of health, “binge drinking accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in the UK”, but since “83% of people who regularly drink above the guidelines don’t think their drinking is putting their long-term health at risk”, have we deluded ourselves into thinking we don’t have a problem?
The government has been “developing a model to support young people who go to A&E with an alcohol-related problem, so that they get proper follow-up and care”, but this is perhaps not enough to curb harmful drinking that has become so normalized, and even an expectation from student life. If you’re not drinking, you’re probably not going out, and if you’re not going out, then you’re a bit of a let down to your generation.
However, the government’s constant review of alcohol guidelines to better inform our decisions on that next glass of house white, are perhaps falling on deaf ears because alcohol issues are far more complicated than a night out on the lash.
According to Ben Baumberg Geiger, a senior lecturer in Sociology and Social policy at the University of Kent, “People find it hard to deal with ambiguous issues like alcohol – that is, things that can cause both pleasure and pain”. Alcoholism is perhaps thought of as the habit of the mentally damaged leaning on the crutch of a whisky bottle, but it takes many forms which perhaps contributes to the delusion surrounding our drinking habits. In addition, the ease with which you can slip into issues with alcohol is often underestimated, and the health consequence of this could be disastrous to young people who have barely begun their professional lives.
Amongst a whole host of other health problems, including over 50 diseases attributed to excessive alcohol consumption, suicide is also a risk as a consequence of unhealthy consumptions of alcohol and is already prevalent in young people.
Needless to say, most of us love a drink, especially when the weekend turns up at the end of a long, stressful week. However, it is partly because of the pleasurable effects of alcohol, Geiger continues to say, that “it’s tempting to think that all of the easy policies (like better education) will be effective. But they’re not. We have a choice between unpopular but effective policies (e.g.higher price, restrictions on promotions) and popular but ineffective ones”
And, hey, what’s wrong with a few quiet ones, some great friends, and an awesome playlist?
(If you are concerned about your drinking habits, this short test from drinkaware can help you assess whether you may need to take action.)