University drinking culture: one year on

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Women holding shot glasses Photo: Isabella Mendes, Pexels

There are only a few days left to take part in Deakin University’s award-winning alcohol survey, which aims to help people who feel trapped in risky drinking groups.

This time last year, Deakin conducted a similar survey to address binge-drinking and its harmful effects.

A student completes the alcohol survey.
Photo: Henry Ballard

2019’s follow-up survey aims to help researchers understand whether or not changes following the first survey have been effective.

Professor Catherine Bennett, of Deakin’s Health faculty, heads the project and said she was excited to see what the survey results hold.

“We’re hoping to see that there have been some positive changes over the last year … and we’ll learn from that,” Bennett said. 

These results will determine what course of action Deakin takes in the years to come.

Both surveys have been funded by VicHealth as part of its Alcohol Culture Change Initiative. The initiative details how VicHealth is most interested in “subpopulations … where alcohol-related harm is greatest”.

Bennett highlighted the importance of understanding how different social groups can have such varied attitudes to alcohol.

“The important thing from these surveys is seeing if there’s groups of people who might feel trapped in a risky-drinking group, that we don’t see or think about,” she said.

“You don’t want to treat everybody as if everybody’s risky-drinking. But one person binge-drinking would be a real worry and we have more than one.”

Deakin seeks to aid those feeling “trapped” by alcohol. Photo: Supplied by Isabella Mendes, Pexels

According to Bennett, the survey’s ideal outcome would be for people to evolve from feeling pressured to drink, to empowering their social group to live better.

“If (drinking in moderation) works for you then that might be a message you take to the next person. And so that group might shift its culture in the end,” she told D*scribe.

“Groups are starting to buy in to different aims for the night out.

“We’re particularly concerned with the early days of uni.”

She also highlighted her interest in those who were raised in countries or religions where alcohol is uncommon.

As student groups who are most likely to partake in risky drink are identified, Bennett hopes that “we can work with the groups” to further their understanding and respect towards alcohol.

“There is an obligation for the university to look after its community,” Bennett said.

Deakin University student, Terry Skliros, 20, admits he and his friends struggled to control their drinking habits when they turned 18.

Deakin seeks to provide “fun alternatives” to alcohol. 

“Every Friday night, (my social group) would get completely smashed,” he said.

Two years on, Skliros considers once a month to be as often as he would drink alcohol.  

A 2015 report by VicHealth found that “heavy drinking is an entrenched aspect of recreation for young adults” and many participants found it “hard to socialise if they didn’t consume alcohol”.

For this reason, Bennett says Deakin hopes to encourage healthy and “fun alternatives” to alcohol, such as mocktails and exercise activities. 

The survey closes on April 14 and takes less than 20 minutes to complete. Click here to complete the short, anonymous survey.

Bennett provided a friendly warning that some ad-blockers may cause the survey to fail, so ensure to disable yours before you begin.

Professor Catherine Bennett (third from left) and the team behind the survey (above).

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HENRY BALLARD
My name is Henry Ballard and I am a budding, 21-year-old feature writer. My favourite topics to learn and write about are racial issues as well as more general politics, both Australian and overseas. I’m also very interested in sports and crime, as I have played and watched many sports over the years. (I have not, however, committed any crimes to date). I started writing for pleasure at 10 years old, writing songs with both lyrics and guitar. Since then, I have gone on to write dozens more songs, while loving English in high-school and of course studying Journalism at Deakin Uni. Some of my favourite stories to write at Deakin have been on the Queen Victoria Market, where I interviewed CEO, Stan Liacos, as well as a story on an animal rights march, where I talked with passionate rights activists outside of the State Library.

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