Annabelle Toon discusses whether or not we are witnessing the end of the British student drinking culture as we know it.
University is stereotyped by many as the place where it’s acceptable to be drunk for four days in a row and nobody is concerned for your health. The playground where we can meet up for a cheeky pint at one in the afternoon and then continue with work and seminars. The hub where we are pretty much constantly assumed to be beating off a hangover. In fact, I would go as far as to say, if we aren’t drinking, it’s assumed there is something wrong, and will quite commonly be called a ‘p***y’ until we do drink.
However, recently, some students (myself included) have decided to turn against the poison. Therefore, after a discussion in the newsroom concerning whether the boozy student is no more, I have been conducting interviews across different year groups to find out what’s really going on.
The first thing I have come across is that it appears drinking habits have a huge correlation with the year you are in at university. With freshers (unsurprisingly) being the most likely to have weeks when they drink more than four days in a row, and have the most ‘messy nights’ – drinking to absolute excess.
A fourth year student put the change in drinking down to having proper friends, stating: “I’m more comfortable with the people I go out with, and more confident in myself”, resulting in drinking less on a night out. It seems then, that the people we go out with are a major factor in how much we drink. This is supported by the statement of a fresher who described “feeling nervous” and “out of place” when not drinking, stating “people would often try to pressure drinks on me, obviously unintentionally, just as a bit of fun”. She went onto explain that having confidence from knowing the people around you and being confident in herself enabled her to partake in the sober night out.
However, whilst said fresher considered herself to be less of a drinker than the average student, she went on to state: “I probably drink like a bottle of wine or something when I go out but not a regular occurrence if I’m not.” This is still exceedingly high, with a 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) containing around ten units – four units short of the weekly average. All in the space of one pre-drinks.
Interestingly though, whilst freshers binge the most, it seems that many older students have taken the approach of ‘less vodka, more wine’. With the students in fourth year or post-graduate describing an increase in casual drinking when just around the house, with the freshers being the group to casual drink the least when they aren’t out.
So, why the turn to casual drinking?
Both Masters students I have interviewed described the change being due to having more work to do and less time for nights out. However, this switch doesn’t necessarily mean drinking less, claiming that they spend around three to four nights a week casual drinking. Two glasses of wine on each of these occasions would total somewhere between 15-20 units a week – up to 33% over the national recommended average per week! That doesn’t include the damage done over the weekend, as most older students still go out at least once a week.
Whilst people may be cutting down on their drinking at university, we are a long way off from losing the ‘boozy student’. Whilst students drinking habits may be changing, the volume of alcohol they consume is far from diminishing.