Research from the Harvard School of Public Health released Tuesday suggests binge-drinking patterns among college students can be correlated with the number of adult binge-drinkers.
According to the study, more Wisconsinites binge-drink than residents of any of the other 40 states studied. Wisconsin university students had the second-highest rate of binge-drinking among all college students.
“What we discovered is that a student who goes to school in a state with fewer adult binge-drinkers is less likely to be a binge-drinker,” Toben F. Nelson, a researcher in the alcohol study, said in a release.
Sue Crowley, director of Policy Alternatives Community Education (PACE), said the research findings did not surprise her.
“I think that Wisconsin’s culture is one in which alcohol is very central, both socially and recreationally,” Crowley said. “Those are activities, at a young age, you become involved with your family.”
University of Wisconsin sophomore Adam Larson said the study’s definition of binge-drinking places him as a binge-drinker one to two times a week, which he does not see as an act of “binging.”
“I realize that technically I am [binge-drinking], but I still don’t see it that way, other than a technicality,” Larson said.
Larson added he did not think UW students drink excessively.
Others agreed their actions did not constitute as binge-drinking.
UW sophomore Mallory Evans, who, under the study, binge-drinks two to three times a week, also said she did not see the behavior described as “binging.”
Evans said she only considered a night of drinking a “binge” if she actually felt drunk.
Evans added heavy drinking often comes with the territory of growing up in Wisconsin.
“It’s our culture,” Evans said. “We have a lot of German and Irish people, and they’re kind of known for drinking. We grew up with drinking being acceptable.”
Evans was not alone in her views. Crowley agreed much of the binge-drinking in Wisconsin has to do with the state’s beer culture.
“When you go anywhere north of Madison, taverns are the local community center,” Crowley said. “Kids and parents are together at the tavern. At a very early age, you learn to associate fun with alcohol.”
Evans, however, did not see a direct relationship between high state-binge-drinking levels and how many Wisconsin college students binge-drink.
“I think it’s more age-related. It’s expected if you’re in college that you’re going to drink,” Evans said. “We’re brought up hearing stories about people drinking in college. It’s kind of accepted.”
Crowley agreed many students have become very accustomed to alcohol.
“I think drinking is very normalized in this state until other people look at it,” Crowley said.
Evans noted alcohol often makes the transition from high school to college go more smoothly.
“When you first come (to college), you have to meet new people, and [drinking] makes meeting new people less awkward,” Evans said. “It brings people together.”
Still, Crowley said there is a misconception about how Wisconsin residents perceive drinking.
“Wisconsin is home to a major brewery; this is a culture that really sees this as a local duty,” Crowley said. “It’s not surprising we have such high-risk drinking on campus.”