Drinking alcohol can have some positive effects associated with it. For example, the social aspect of drinking alcohol and the relaxed and confident feelings that complement it shows an optimistic side to what is primarily seen as a negative habit. Bot, Engels and Knibbe (2005) found that young adults expected positive and arousing effects when consuming alcohol. Furthermore, research by Reich, Ariel, Darkes and Goldman (2012) has shown that heavy drinkers perceive the notion of being drunk as a positive experience and positive emotions such as ‘happy’ and ‘outgoing’ surround the topic. However, drinking alcohol is mainly seen as an unconstructive behaviour and leads to feelings of nausea, aggressive actions and risky behaviours. Reed, Levin and Evans (2012) showed that women who are heavy drinkers are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex or drink driving, and develop an alcohol use disorder, whereby their intake of alcohol can greatly affect their wellbeing. This idea is also true for men, as found in research by Turchick (2012). Turchick (2012) found that male sexual victimisation correlated with the amount of alcohol that the participants consumed. Along with this, they were found to smoke more tobacco and increase the likelihood of risky sexual behaviours.
As shown heavy alcohol use can lead to unsafe sex practises, but one of the worst consequences from drinking alcohol is death. On packets of cigarettes the consequences of smoking are made clear from the words and pictures clearly displayed on the wrapping and yet the adverse effects are not promoted on the most common drug of all. It can be questioned as to why these effects are not better publicised. Research by Hingson, Heeren, Winter and Wechsler (2005) shows some interesting statistics about young students from 1998 – 2001 in America. The research shows that 2.8 million students accounted that they had driven under the influence of alcohol and unfortunately the deaths from alcohol had increased to over 1700 students from 1600 in three years. All this evidence shows that drinking alcohol is not good for us and yet people still drink alcohol to excess. Excessive drinking behaviour is particularly seen in universities. It has been found that the frequent consumption of alcohol is predominantly associated with university students and so students drink more than their peers who do not attend university, (Slutshe et al, 2004). Questions need to be asked as to why students feel that university and heavy drinking go hand in hand.
The idea of university is implemented throughout the media as an opportunity to meet many people, some whom are willing to have sex, with parties occurring regularly and easy access to drugs such as alcohol. These kinds of scenarios are portrayed in such television programmes as Skins and films like American Pie. Because these behaviours are expected to be seen and engaged in, when young adults enrol in university, they are not generally frowned upon by students and seen as acceptable behaviours in university towns. Research shows that students overestimate how often other students experience negative consequences from drinking too much alcohol, (Lee, Geisner, Patrick & Neighbors, 2010). This suggests that students may believe that they are expected to drink heavily and suffer negative consequences, such as hangovers, and that their peers would accept these ailments, although it may not be true when actually at university. From this research, students may have the premise that they need to drink heavily in university even before they have started their chosen course. Furthermore, when university does begin, new students are greeted with fresher’s week. Fresher’s week consists of a week (or fortnight in some cases) of activities usually surrounded by and involving alcohol. During fresher’s week it is usually expected that people drink and activities such as partaking in pub golf enhance this need to drink. Students may take part in situations such as these because it has been found that conformity motives are negatively related to consequences. In other words, if a person takes part in an activity the consequences of not partaking decrease. Johnson and Sheets (2004) suggest that students drink and take part in these games as a protective barrier against consequences such as not being considered part of a group. As a new face in university it may be important to fit in and so students may partake in these games and sessions of heavy drinking in order to make friends and not be alienated from the new situation. This is obviously a negative factor given the consequences that heavy drinking can lead to and the ideas that new students have when coming into university about drinking alcohol need to be changed.
University has many clubs and societies available and there is usually something for everyone making them popular with all students. Societies and clubs regularly have socials and these events usually consist of nights out drinking. Sports clubs such as rugby and hockey are usually synonymous with this. According to Zamboanga et al. (2011) pregaming usually takes place before sporting occasions and parties. With university students the act of pregaming is a popular concept. Pregaming (also known as pre-drinking) is a concept whereby people drink at home or round a friend’s house before going out. It usually consists of drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time with the aid of drinking games. Pregaming is positively associated with the rate of attendance at parties where alcohol is available i.e. the more pregaming that takes place the more parties (with alcohol available) you will attend, (Zamboanga et al., 2011). This last point is further enhanced by Magil, Kahler, Monti and Barnett, (2012) who suggests that college student drinking is reactive to alcohol events. This means that an event will trigger students to drink heavier than they would usually. This is further supported by research into students and their 21st birthday celebrations. Rutledge, Park and Sher (2008) showed that 21st birthday drinking posed extreme danger to students because of the abnormal levels of alcohol consumption. This can be backed by Lewis, Neighbor, Lee and Oster-Aaland (2008) who found that many students experienced extremely negative consequences such as passing out and driving under the influence from the alcohol consumed on their 21st birthday. However, not all events cause an extreme consumption of alcohol as it was found that drinking on other special days, such as Christmas or on holidays that the drinking was significantly lower than that on 21st birthdays, (Neighbors et al., 2011). According to Day-Cameron, Muse, Hauenstein, Simmons and Correia (2009) the reason for drinking so heavily at 21 has been attributed to normative beliefs and others believe that prevention is needed for drinking associated with being 21, (Lewis et al., 2008).
Neighbors, Lindgren, Knee, Fossos and DiBello (2011) found that being in favour of drinking yourself and seeing others as approving of drinking strongly affects your own drinking. They suggest that if you perceive something to be accepted by others it is more likely that you will take part in such an action. Furthermore, Hussong (2003) suggested that whether a person drinks alcohol or not was dependant on their own intentions and the drinking motives of close peers. At university drinking alcohol is a major part of the culture and this can affect a person’s will; they may feel as if they have a lack of control in the matter when referring to alcohol consumption. Leeman, Patock-Peckham and Potenza (2012) suggest that impaired control is a significant problem and may be accountable for the alcohol related issues of university students.
Although the university circumstances are foremost a determinant of alcohol use in students, as shown by the vast majority of evidence here, the social environment at home may also play an important role. Patock-Peckham and Morgan-Lopez (2009) suggest that parenting may have some significance on the formation of internal pathways to alcohol related problems and this has been supported by Abar (2012) who found that students with parents that were pro-alcohol (those who regularly drank alcohol and drank to excess at times) had a higher likelihood of entering high risk or extreme risk drinker profiles.
Sociocultural factors are a major contribution to student drinking. These factors include peer groups, religious beliefs, social norms and social situations among others. The present argument suggests that students in university drink due to these factors.
The majority of the mentioned research is conducted in America. However, Bangor University students’ drinking is also affected by sociocultural factors.
Bangor is a small place that it is in a way consumed by the university drinking culture. In summer and during the holidays it is a much quieter place because most of the students go home and it breathes again when students return. Students are such a major part of the city. Bangor also partakes in university traditions such as fresher’s week and there are loads of offers on in pubs and clubs which promote drinking. The university halls also make it difficult at times for people to not be involved with other students and the drinking culture. In walking distance from the halls there is a student bar and Bangor has loads of clubs and societies which all have socials. There is even an athletic union night in the university nightclub where many sports societies all go out together on this one night. Most of all drinking in Bangor is widely accepted. It is a social norm. In the high street there are many pubs and there are a few nightclubs, all of which are popular. It is expected that students go out on a Friday for example and although drinking may not be popular in other small cities on a Sunday it is easy to drink everyday of the week in Bangor. Finally, even if drinking is not common at home, students may drink excessively at university as it is available and many students do. Of course drinking heavily is not good as frequently mentioned here and some ideas could be implemented at Bangor University in order to change students’ drinking.
According to Webb, Ashton, Kelly and Kamali (1996) it remains unclear whether university student lifestyles are carried over into later life, but it is clear that university drinking culture has to change especially if there is any evidence that suggests that the university lifestyle would carry on long past it had finished. Also, it has been suggested that there is an urgent need to try and reduce any alcohol related negative consequences among all young adults, but especially university students, (Hingson, Zha and Weitzman, 2009). However, changing a whole culture quickly may be very difficult and home scenarios may be even more difficult to change. Furthermore, according to Cumsille, Sayer and Graham (2000) the situation needs early intervention in order to be successful. This is because exposure to peer drinking, be it friends or family, and the rate of this change predicted the alcohol expectations. However, the research showed that these changes in attitude were especially strong at grades 5-7 and so education could play a vital role. Research found that academic requirements may reduce alcohol demand among college students. People who had been assigned a group time of 0830 hours as opposed to 1230 hours hypothetically said that they would drink less, if at all, compared to those in the 1230 hour situation, (Gentile, Librizzi, and Martinetti, 2012). This is because they would be staying up late drinking alcohol and so less likely to be awake in time for the earlier class or even miss it altogether because of a hangover than if they had later classes. Therefore, Bangor University could try and hold classes and exams earlier in the mornings, to reduce the alcohol intake of students.
It is always going to be difficult to change such widespread ideas about heavy drinking in universities. However, this idea needs to be abolished in order to alter the culture surrounding university drinking.
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