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College students report benefits of binge drinking

Some college-age binge drinkers say the benefits of heavy drinking outweigh the negative consequences.


BeerGogglesStudents reported having more courage, improved communication skills, and better social abilities when they’re drunk. Those qualities offset the blackouts, hangovers and trouble they’ve gotten into after drinking too much alcohol, according to a University of Washington study which concludes students have “rose-colored beer goggles” on.

Researchers analyzed an online survey about the drinking habits of 500 college students. The survey assessed how often the participants had experienced 35 different negative consequences of drinking, including: blackouts, fights, hangovers, missed classes and work, and lost or stolen property. The 14 positive side effects suggested in the survey included: better conversational and joke-telling abilities, improved sexual encounters and more energy to stay up late partying and dancing.

Researchers asked participants about how likely all of these drinking consequences would happen again and how positive or negative they were. Granted this is self-reporting, so that could skew survey results. Students reported the upsides of drinking were more positive. Despite bad experiences, they said they’d probably drink too much again.

“It’s as though they think that the good effects of drinking keep getting better and more likely to happen again,” says Diane Logan, a UW clinical psychology grad student.

The study suggests that it’s extremely difficult to change behavior, even when the person suffers because of their own actions.

“People think, ‘‘It’s not going to happen to me’ or ‘I’ll never drink that much again.’ They do not seem to associate their own heavy drinking with negative consequences,” says Kevin King, a UW assistant professor of psychology.

They’re hoping the study, shared in the peer publication Psychology of Addictive Behaviors will help college counselors across the country improve alcohol education and intervention programs on campus.

Beer goggles photo courtesy Nerd Nirvana

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