08/20/2012 02:51 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

Binge Drinking College Students Are Happier Than Peers That Don't Binge Drink


How can one be happy in college? By indulging in extracurriculars that you have passion for, such as orienteering? Wrong! It is by binge drinking, says one study by the American Sociological Association.

How can this be when we know that binge drinking is associated with myriad problems such as unplanned pregnancy and blackouts (Not to mention that it also costs America hundreds of billions of dollars)? Binge drinking can make you happy because it is associated with "higher status" students, who generally have a better time of it in college, i.e. the white, male heterosexual athletes or frat boys.

"Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for high status in college," Colgate University associate professor Carolyn L. Hsu said in a press release, "It's what the most powerful, wealthy, and happy students on campus do. This may explain why it's such a desirable activity. When lower status students binge drink, they may be trying to tap into the benefits and the social satisfaction that those kids from high status groups enjoy. And, our findings seem to indicate that, to some extent, they succeed."

The study was conducted at an elite northeastern university using data from nearly 1,600 undergraduates

"High-status" students generally reported drinking far more than their low status peers, but they also reported being much happier with their college experience.

But all is not lost for those lower on the totem pole. According to the study's findings, when lower status students (i.e. women, LBGTQ, non-white and non-greek affiliated) caroused like the popular kids, they actually felt better about their college experience. Consequently, when "high-status" students did not binge drink they felt worse about their experience in college.

"Low status students in particular seem to be using binge drinking as a vehicle for social mobility and as a way to contend with an otherwise hostile social environment," Hsu said.