Alcohol Consumption Among College Students
College is often seen as a time for individuals to find out their identity as a person. For many people, it’s a chance to truly explore their surroundings without the constricting binds they may feel from their caregivers. During this period, people try new things and exhibit behavior that would most likely not occur under other circumstances. For instance, many people will never again get the chance to live in a residence hall setting, where they are in such proximity to other people. But with the atmosphere of college being so unlike any other, it’s easy to get carried away. And one of the most popular ways to experience the true college scene is through alcohol, and lots of it.
Alcohol and college have been interchangeable terms for quite some time. The media for some time has played into the idea that college students were and still are rambunctious and intoxicated. Many people feel that drinking is almost a prerequisite for receiving the true college experience. With shows on television like Greek and movies such as Old School, it would be difficult not to assume that drinking is something of the norm on a college campus and is typical behavior of all college students. Characters such as “Frank the Tank” being shown in a fraternity social setting consuming alcohol at large quantities, adolescents may begin to feel that kind of behavior is typical of those types of organizations. Other thoughts that may be assumed by young adults is that hazing is used with every Greek organization, and rituals consisting of humiliation and torment are required in order to be part of the brother or sisterhood.
Many people see alcohol as having a negative impact on society. Problems such as drunk drivers, underage drinking, and domestic violence have all caused people to become more aware of this substance and the effects it causes on people. In order to combat this, the United States has implemented strict laws to keep people under the age of 21 from drinking and enforcing strict reprimand for violators. However, these restrictions have not been working as well as planned and other countries with more lenient regulations about drinking are having more favorable outcomes. Kitsantas, Kitsantas, and Anagnostopoulou (2008) found that adolescents in other countries do not experience the same negative effects of alcohol as those in the United States, possibly because of more leniencies regarding alcohol. These effects include accidents caused by drunk driving and underage drinking. For instance, in Scotland drinking alcohol is considered part of the culture and permitted for everyone. When a comparison was done between college students from America and those from Scotland, researchers found that students who were from Scotland did not experience the drinking problems that students from America had. The study also noted that alcohol consumption is Scotland was handled in a much more responsible way than had been seen in America. Adolescents in Scotland did not drink to the extreme that adolescents in America did, and did not take part in as much risky behavior such as binge drinking and driving while intoxicated.
Possible reasons for the fact that Scotland does not have the same difficulties in underage drinking could be one of many reasons. First, the drinking age in Scotland as well as other European countries is much lower than it is in the United States. The notion of getting away with something that they should not be doing simply does not apply to Scottish adolescents. Here in the United States, some teenagers feel as though they are getting away with an intolerable act when they take part in activities that include drinking alcohol. The risk of getting caught, as well as the notion of doing something that is viewed negatively in our society could contribute to the high numbers of people taking part in underage drinking.
It is most likely that the time that most people will experience their greatest magnitude of alcohol consumption while enrolled in college. As citied in LaBrie, Rodrigues, Schiffman, and Tawalbeh’s article, Ham and Hope state that college students consume more alcohol than any other group of the population. College students also purchase the most alcohol out of any other demographic, which is interesting considering only about half of the number of college students are legally allowed to purchase it. With easy access to great magnitudes of alcohol and an environment that condones underage drinking, many people become quickly consumed with the pressure to drink. And not only are students drinking but they are drinking at dangerously high levels (Wechsler, 1995). This phenomenon is known as binge drinking. Wechsler (1995) defined binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks in a row for men and four or more drinks for women, and doing this at least once in a two week period. Although this amount seems like a lot, many college students do not feel the same way. In fact, many students would consider that amount small.
With drinking games such as “flip cup” and “circle of death” where the goal of the game is to consume great amounts of alcohol, many people surpass the amount of alcohol that needed in order for their drinking to be considered a binge. Also, many people in the college setting also drink for the simple goal of getting drunk, or the more popular term “getting wasted.” It seems that this outcome is favorable although it many times leaves undesirable consequences such as a hangover, blacking out, and alcohol poisoning.
It has also been noted that adolescents who begin drinking at younger ages, take part in more dangerous drinking activities than those that prolong their first alcohol-related experience (LaBrie, 2007). Early onset drinkers are also more likely to drink more alcohol in one given period and drink more regularly than those who did not begin drinking until the age of 18 or older. People who began drinking earlier were also more likely to use illegal drugs such as marijuana and heroin.
Many officials are beginning to notice the effects of alcohol and how it is influencing college campuses. Some schools have started to implement strict policies in an attempt to alleviate some of the negative effects alcohol is having. Many college campuses today are “dry” meaning that alcohol is not allowed anywhere on the campus, including residence halls. Local bars in college towns are also becoming very strict about age requirements, many times requiring that the age limit to be admitted is 21 years of age or older. Police officials have begun cracking down on house parties where a high number of underage drinking takes place. Although laws and regulations are becoming stricter regarding underage drinking, alcohol consumption among college students remains high.
In the article, Colleges Step up Measures to Combat Campus Drinking (1998), the group Phoenix House it discussed. This program works with colleges across the country in an attempt to reduce the harmful effects caused by underage drinking such as alcohol poisoning and in the most serious cases death. Phoenix House works with schools such as University of Texas to distribute materials about safe drinking as well as tips for what someone should do if they are worried that a friend of theirs has a drinking problem. With more college students today drinking for the intent of simply getting drunk, universities have to up their efforts of providing information as well as services for those who choose to drink. According to the article, Phoenix House works with over 500 universities across the United States, and focuses on three different aspects of drinking which include people who think they have a drinking problem, people who think their friends have a drinking problem, and substance abusers. The program is completely anonymous not only to maintain confidentiality but also so that people involved in activities such as sports and Greek organizations will not be punished. It is especially important for Greek students to have the privacy of using this program because of the rules and regulations that many of these organizations have in place related to alcohol. Being caught taking part in dangerous activities related to alcohol and being shown as being a member of a Greek organization is a major policy violation for many of these groups. For instance, consuming alcohol while wearing Greek letters for many of the sororities and fraternities results in discharge from the organization.
With drinking becoming more popular on college campuses and the effects of drinking becoming more dangerous, such as the increased level of fatal accidents caused by drunk drivers and domestic violence while alcohol was being used. People are beginning to ask where these acts are taking place and who is drinking the most alcohol. Caron, Moskey, and Hovey found that members of social Greek organizations consume more alcohol than any other group on a college campus, and at a much larger magnitude. According to their article, roughly 75% of fraternity men on college campuses were binge drinkers, compared to the 45% of non-fraternity men who also binged. Along with the excessive amounts of alcohol being consumed, social Greek members have also reported more negative effects caused by the use of alcohol. Roughly half of sorority members have reported missing a class due to the effects of alcohol (Caron et al, 2004). In addition, those Greek members who lived in Greek housing were more likely to drink at dangerous levels as compared to non-Greek members. There is also the question of whether or not these young men and women feel more pressure to drink because they belong to these organizations. If their Greek brothers or sisters are taking part in drinking activities, some students may feel as though they need to as well.
Social Greek members are also more likely to experience violence because of their drinking. According to Wechsler, Kuh, and Davenport (1996) sorority members are twice as likely as non-sorority members to experience violence towards them in some way. They were more likely to be pushed, assaulted, and hit when under the influence of alcohol. They were also more likely to engage in risky behavior such as unprotected sex. These acts of violence were highly correlated with the amount of alcohol that was consumed prior to the incident taking place.
Colleges have begun to take notice to the growing amounts of social Greek fraternities and sororities and the amount of alcohol that they are consuming. Even more so, officials have looked to the freshmen rush classes and monitoring their intake more than others. It has been shown that a social Greek member have been more likely to consume alcohol during their pledge of the organization than any other time during their involvement (Caron et al, 2004). Schools such as the University of Missouri currently require that all incoming Greek members be alcohol free during their first year as a Greek member (Colleges, 1998). This has been done by strict observation and random checks of Greek housing as well as parties.
With alcohol among social Greek members increasing at such high rates, there is a question of why this is happening. Some people may say that the media is playing into this idea. With new shows on television condoning drinking among minors, people may feel that drinking large amounts of alcohol is acceptable in society. And with the stereotype of Greek organizations being that drinking is an important facet of that community, people may feel pressure to live up to the stereotype. In fact, many Greek members do. Greek members feel more pressure to drink alcohol than non-Greek members do, and students who are rushing fraternities and sororities feel more pressure to drink than people who are already members of such organizations (Caron et al, 2004). And these groups are growing larger as time goes on. More people are taking part in drinking, and binge drinking is increasing at high rates.
The hypothesis for this study states that members of social Greek organizations will consume more alcohol than non-members of such organizations. Furthermore, members of social fraternities will consume the most alcohol out of all other demographics. These hypotheses are being supported by previous studies similar to this one at universities across the United States with comparable outcomes.
The participants were 91 college students from the University of Central Missouri. Most of the students were enrolled in psychology courses at the university where research credit was offered for participation. Participants consisted of 31 males and 60 females, who were at least 18 years of age that took part in the survey. There were 18 members of social Greek organizations with the remaining 73 not being identified in those groups.
Participants were required to have access to a computer with internet connection in order to take part in the survey. The survey includes roughly 50 questions which consist of questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” “true” or “false,” a 5 point Likert scale, as well as some fill-in-the-blank questions. Questions on this survey include things such as year in school, grade point average, participation in extracurricular activities, and membership in social Greek organizations. Questions from the modified Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale (M-C 1(10)) were also implemented in order to ensure that the information being provided by the participants was valid. The online survey was created using the university’s Simple Survey Builder 2.0.
The participants were asked to locate a computer with internet access and log onto the SONA system. Once they have logged onto the system, they will click on the Alcohol Consumption study and read and accept the informed consent form. From there, the participant opened the actual online survey. The survey took approximately 30 minutes to complete.
A one-way ANOVA was conducted using SPSS 16.0 to determine if there was a relation between Greek affiliation and alcohol consumption. Greek affiliation was used as the independent variable with number of drinks consumed in a given period being the dependent variable. There was no correlation between alcohol consumption and Greek affiliation, F (1, 88) =.549, p > .05. An ANCOVA was also conducted to determine if members of social fraternities consumed more alcohol than the other demographics. The results for the ANCOVA were also insignificant, showing that there is no statistically significant difference in the amount of alcohol that members of social fraternities consume in comparison to people not involved in these such organizations, F(1, 87) =3.30, p >.05.
The hypothesis for the study stated that members of social Greek organizations would consume more alcohol than non-members. Furthermore, members of social fraternities would consume more alcohol than any other demographic on the college campus. The findings of the study failed to relate Greek affiliation with dangerous drinking activities. The findings did not find a correlation between alcohol and Greek affiliation with any of the analysis that were conducted. However, the mean number of Greek students that felt pressure to drink alcohol by their peers was higher than non-Greeks, possibly suggesting the social pressures of the group. Possible reasons for this could be the small size of Greek members that chose to take part in the online study. Only 18 of the 91 participants identified themselves as Greek in the survey. The fingings for the study support Wechsler’s study about students and binge drinking. Students in this study did consume alcohol at higher levels, which could be considered binge drinking. Future suggestions for researchers would include an attempt to balance the number of Greek to non-Greek persons. In addition, the ratio between the men and women in the study was skewed, with more women than men who could seek to explain the reason as to why the hypothesis for fraternity men drinking more alcohol was rejected. Although there was no statistical significance to support that members of social fraternities are more likely to consume more alcohol, the results of the study are very close to being statistically significant. It would be suggested to future researchers that a larger number of total participants, along with more Greek members would increase the chances of finding significance within the study.
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One-way ANOVA summary table for the alcohol study
Source df SS Mean Square F Significane
Between 1 .34 .34 .36 .549
Within 88 81.76 .93
Total 89 82.10
Figure 1. Number of Greek-affiliated participants in the alcohol consumption study.
Figure 2. Amount of alcohol consumed by participants on nights of the week.