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Binge-Drinking on Campus: Which Students are at Risk?

Sep 08, 2016 04:33 AM EDT

Students with low self-esteem have higher risk for binge-drinking and associated behaviors including violence, unsafe sex and poor academic performance.

While universities were busy re-opening their doors, Hanna R. Hamilton and Tracy DeHart published a timely study in Self & Identity about the link between low self-esteem and amount of alcohol consumed. The difference in drinks ingested was an average of 11 drinks for students with low self-esteem to an average of six for more confident students.

Hamilton & DeHart's study included 195 students, all of whom had their self-esteem levels evaluated through implicit and explicit tests. In order to create a fake threat to their most important friendship, the students were asked to think about their best friends and the secrets they had kept from them and then given a fake article, Sciece Daily reports.

One group was given an article about the negative effects of withholding secrets from friends while the control group was given an article unrelated to friendship about our secret selves. The following day, the researchers surveyed the students about the amount of alcohol they consumed the preceding night.

On average, confident students drank six alcoholic beverages while students with low self-esteem drank 11 alcoholic beverages. It appeared that the students with low self-esteem were attempting to use alcohol to strengthen friendship bonds in order to compensate for the feared threat.

Hamilton and DeHart linked their research to previous studies showing that people sometimes use alcohol to cope with negative emotions caused by bad experiences. Students with low-self esteem are more likely to be sensitive to emotional setbacks, thereby leading them binge-drinking in order to deal with their negative emotions.

The authors are proponents of further research regarding interventions for students with low self-esteem. The ability to put off negative emotions and foster feelings of self-acceptance could lead students to drink more responsibly.

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