It is a common belief that college is all about parties and drinking. Okay, perhaps it’s about studying and preparing for a career too. However, drinking – including binge drinking – is not only common but is considered “cool” among many.
Drinking and binge drinking are so normalized among college and university students that many don’t consider their consequences. They should, though, as drinking has serious consequences for the health and lives of students.
Students And Heavy Drinking
College students not only drink alcohol relatively frequently but also drink excessively. It is not just drinking a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail on vacation. It is drinking every weekend, possibly every night, and drinking lots of it. 80% of college and university students drink alcohol—50% or more drink in excess within a short period, leading to intoxication.
College drinking can lead to many personal and social problems and health issues.
Some of the consequences of college drinking include:
- Increase in depression and other mental health problems
- Alcohol addiction
- Physical assaults
- Sexual assault
- Accidental injuries and death
- Reduced ability to meet academic standards
- Social problems
- Financial problems
- Legal problems
The Link Between Heavy Drinking, Depression, And Suicide
Suicide ranks as the second most common cause of death in colleges and universities in the US. 18% of undergraduates and 15% of graduate students have considered attempting suicide at least once. About 7 out of 100,000 kill themselves. It means 1,100 suicide-related deaths among students. There are even more failed attempts.
About 60 percent of college students have reported intense forms of sadness. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses among college students and adults in the US. About 30 percent of students have experienced depression so severe that it interfered with their school work and their ability to function normally.
When you’re depressed, you might drink a lot. Having too much to drink can make you depressed. They can co-exist together, feeding each other. Heavy drinking can easily lead to alcoholism and alcohol-related health, social, personal, and other problems. As problems with alcohol grow, they become a feeding ground for depression that can lead to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
While studies can’t prove that alcohol can lead to suicide, they point out a serious issue on a larger scale. College students already live stressful life that can increase the risk of sadness and mental health problems. Add alcohol to the picture, and problems escalate. When drinking alcohol – including heavy drinking – is normalized, it is difficult to recognize a problem before it’s too late.
What Can Schools Do To Support Students?
College administrators and public health officials prioritize identifying students at a high risk of suicidal thoughts and depression and consider heavy drinking. Education, advocacy, support groups, counseling, and peer counseling are essential tools to help students. Removing the shame and stigma and standing alongside students, and providing support is the best tool a school can provide.
What do you think about college drinking and its consequences? What can we do to support our students and reduce heavy drinking, depression, and suicide on campus? Share your ideas in the comments below; we would love to hear your thoughts.