Changing the Drinking Culture in our Universities

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Drinking is part of the university student life.

Deakin University has released a new survey asking students to share information about their drinking habits.

The survey hopes to address the youth binge-drinking culture and reduce alcohol-related harm among university students.

By understanding the drinking behaviours within the university setting, small-scale, university-wide interventions can be implemented to reduce the social acceptability of harmful drinking.

The survey is one of nine research projects within VicHealth’s $3 million dollar ‘Alcohol Culture Change Initiative’ that targets a number of alcohol consumption practices.

VicHealth hopes to combat cultures of risky drinking.

Alcohol occupies a significant place in Australian culture and research has found there is a particular high prevalence of hazardous drinking among university students.

Leading researcher behind this project, Deakin University Professor Catherine Bennett, highlights the need for action.

“Students want to fit in at uni, so the culture and norms around alcohol are important,” she told Dscribe.

“Although university-age binge drinking is often viewed as a rite of passage, hazardous drinking is associated with serious consequences in the longer term and therefore universities have a responsibility, and are well placed to try to impact on this.”

A further study by a Perth university found that students who regularly binge-drink were at higher risk of academic impairment, sexual assault, injury, property damage and interpersonal violence.

Professor Bennett also recognises the academic and long-term personal problems associated with binge drinking.

“There is good evidence that heavy drinking, especially binge drinking, can impact on a student’s success at university and beyond. This is why it is really important to encourage healthy attitudes to drinking alcohol, and to make it ok for people to choose to not drink,” she says.

Excessive alcohol consumption has a number of associated risks.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that adults aged 18 to 24 years were more likely to drink at harmful levels on a single occasion than the rest of the adult population.

Additionally, 53 per cent of 16 to 29 year olds believe that getting drunk occasionally is not a problem, according to VicHealth.

Twenty-year-old university student Briana Dennert lived on campus for two years and says excessive drinking is part of the student lifestyle.

“Drinking alcohol on campus at uni and at uni nights is a major part of socialising and, as a result, a lot of binge drinking occurs at university,” she told Dscribe.

“The weekly ‘uni nights’ encourage students to drink, with everyone pre-drinking before going out. Students drink to get drunk to not only have fun but to also fit in with everyone else as sometimes the students that don’t drink become the ones that aren’t ‘normal.”

Professor Bennett further highlights the importance of combating the issue. 

“Universities are community leaders and should lead the way in best practice. Deakin has leading researchers in alcohol behaviours and harm, so we should tap into that knowledge and make sure our students benefit too,” she says.

The Alcohol Culture Change Project survey had more than 1000 student responses last week.

Students are encouraged to complete the short survey before its closing date this Sunday the 20th of April.

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