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To What Extent is Binge Drinking Affecting Students' Mental Health?

Disclaimer: This article contains sensitive content.

It's hard to deny that alcohol is a massive part of student culture. Clubbing, pub crawls and house parties sum up student life in the UK for the majority. We all know the dangers of regular drinking, especially when it is in the form of binge culture, but how much is it affecting the mental health of students?

Student drinking

Most of us, associate alcohol with many different emotions and situations. After a hard week of studying (or not!), many of us love to go to the pub with our mates and have a few pints. However, issues arise when the frequency or amount we drink increases.

Students are notorious for drinking, with many societies being based around socials and events such as pub crawls and club nights common on students' calendars.

Come to Leeds on any Saturday and you will be greeted by rowdy, drunk students. For students in Leeds, the likelihood is that they have taken part in the Otley Run. The Otley Run is an infamous pub crawl where students dress in fancy dress, visiting around 15 pubs from the student suburb of Headingley into the City Centre.

In many student areas, deals such as cheap trebles and shots run rife. In Newcastle, a student city synonymous with binge drinking and nightlife, you can find three trebles for as cheap as £9, which when many students struggle with money, can be extremely tempting as an addition to their social life expenditure.

Many students come to university without ever trying alcohol in their lives. They can quickly fall into a dangerous drinking culture because of factors such as peer pressure, and the reality that even in 2023 the majority of students' events are centred around drinking and going out.

Drinking culture

Alcohol is also massively ingrained in not just student culture, but British culture in general. Drinking is rooted in our social occasions, from weddings to funerals. Compared to countries such as Finland, Sweden and Greece, we have cheaper consumer prices for alcohol.

Many of us grew up seeing our parents drinking, even if it was just a one-off for a social event. Growing up seeing your parents doing something means when you're offered the chance to try it, you're more likely to.

The risks

Even if you don’t drink daily, your mental health risks are still significant. Binge drinking even once a week can increase your risk of health problems almost fivefold. Student life can be stressful and intense, and many come to university with mental health issues. For some, alcohol offers a form of escapism and allows people to feel more at ease in social situations.

However, regular drinking interferes with brain neurotransmitters, enhancing the function of inhibitory neurotransmitters and decreasing the function of excitatory neurotransmitters. In other words, this is the reason you don't leave bed till 4 pm after a Wednesday sport social.

We've all had the feeling of 'hangxiety', feeling anxious and prone to negative emotions the day after drinking. But when this happens every single weekend, it can begin to seriously affect mental health. Feeling hungover every weekend and into the week can lead to you falling behind not just on uni work and assignments, but on basic functions such as keeping your space tidy, doing regular exercise, and eating healthily, all things that contribute to mental health.

The effects

A morbid fact, but one that needs to be addressed, is the fact that in 2020, 64 students passed away due to suicide. This brutal fact brings into perspective the mental health issues that are plaguing universities today.

Universities have put into effect things to combat this such as offering free counselling sessions and more welfare checks, but ultimately the truth is that alcohol worsens mental health, and can push people with no previous mental health problems over the edge.

What is being done?

However, for many uni students, the experience is changing. More and more societies and organisations are being set up for sober students. These include the sober girl society, which helps run events for student unions across the country that do not involve alcohol in any form.

The events offered include coffee shop visits, movie nights and even things like murder mystery nights. These offer students a way to experience traditional forms of student life and a way to make friends without having to turn to alcohol and clubbing.

More and more sober students are also sharing their experiences on apps such as TikTok and Instagram, and offering tips on things like sober clubbing and the benefits of cutting down on drinking,

Around 30% of young people in 2018 said they did not drink at all, and this number is increasing more and more every day.

Surely enough, the association of alcohol with student life is becoming more and more traditional, some day we may even see entirely sober universities!


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