Since 1995, a surge of drinking was seen amongst many young adults. This further increased in the late 1990’s when the sale of alcohol was introduced into supermarkets, certain limits were removed and the legal age decreased (ALAC, 2003). The consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol in one sitting is becoming a common occurrence for students at university, resulting in curiosity as to why it is considered ‘socially acceptable’ to be a binge drinker, or more importantly, why it is ‘socially unacceptable’ to be a moderate or non drinker if you are a university student. Baer, Kivlahan, & Marlatt (1995) cited in Borsari & Carey (2001) stated that alcohol abuse often increases during the college years, which might be due to the increased exposure to this particular culture on campus and the struggle for a student to withdraw themselves from it. This argument focuses on whether moderate and non-drinkers are perceived as socially ‘uncool’ and feel obligated to participate in binge drinking as a result of peer pressure, the perceptions of non-drinkers and the influences of the marketing of alcohol.
There are many studies that explore the prevalence of binge drinkers in student society. One study by Kypri, Paschall, Langley, Baxter, Cashell-Smith, & Bourdeau (2009) investigated the frequency of binge drinking and the risks associated with it. Results indicated that in the previous 4 weeks, 81% of women and men drank alcohol. Among these participants, 33% had a blackout, 6% had unprotected sex, and 5% said that they were physically aggressive towards someone. More significantly, lower ages, earlier age of drinking onset and living in a residential hall (17%) or shared house (56%) were factors for frequent binge drinking. Comparably, Wechsler, Molnar, & Davenport (2010) concluded that approximately 1 out of 5 college students are frequent binge drinkers. The study showed that the median number of drinks students consumed a week was 14.5 for frequent binge drinkers compared to 0.7 for those who did not binge drink. Through both of these studies, it’s established that binge drinking is widespread throughout college campuses (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994).
The popularity of this binge drinking culture, and why students believe alcohol is a solution to social acceptance is explored later in this report. However, advertising of alcoholic beverages may play a huge part in grounding these thoughts in the minds of these individuals. Jones, & Donovan (2000) used three radio advertisements for vodka based pre mixed drinks and investigated how university student’s interpreted the messages from them. Results showed that unprompted and prompted messages were extracted from the advertisements, such messages included mood enhancement through problem removal, self-confidence, less anxiety, and each participant was left convinced that with this drink they would have a good time. The positive connotations associated with the marketing of alcoholic drinks as well as exploiting the student lifestyle by providing accessibility and affordability on campus (Kuo et al, 2003) is significant in encouraging binge drinking as being socially acceptable, and allows the culture to become a major part of the university regime.
Students undergo a distinctive transition period within the first year of university. This period is essential in expanding their social network and in establishing their ‘identity’ (Borsari, Murphy, & Barnett, 2007). The process of ‘fitting in’ heavily relies on the use of alcohol for many first year students, and eventually results in a pattern of binge drinking. Borsari, et al, 2007 conducted a study that assessed the predictors of drinking in first year students in order to understand the development of alcohol use in university. Six were identified, and included coping,