Drinking culture in student life: A fun distraction or a serious problem?

Dance and drink all night long, and then go to class hungover the next morning: It’s the image that comes to mind when thinking about a typical student. But do students actually drink as much as they’re (in)famous for? And are the consequences to their drinking culture really that dire? Wessel Giezen, chair of student association Vindicat, and Maureen van Blerk, board member of student association Dizkartes, don’t think so.

Photo by Radovan

“I try to limit it, just a beer now and then,” van Blerk says. She drinks alcohol about two nights a week. “Exercising is also important,” she adds with a laugh.

Yet, how much alcohol is not too much depends on who you ask. “I don’t think I drink a lot,” Giezen says. “On average I drink 5 nights a week, and looking at yesterday, I think I drank somewhere between 8 and 10 beers in about 6 hours.”

With that amount and frequency, “you are basically marinated in poison the whole week,” Robert van de Graaf says, a doctor specialised in addiction care. “The healthiest option is to not drink at all,” he says.

Despite its frequent association with student life, van Blerk and Giezen agree that alcohol is not necessarily consumed more by students than by other groups in society. “I think every student in Groningen drinks a glass of beer now and then, and I think the largest part of the Dutch population drinks a glass of beer now and then,” Giezen says.

Van de Graaf sees this as well: “It’s part of our culture.”

Yet, even though it is not limited to students, alcohol consumption is in fact part of student life, according to van Blerk. “But in a positive way,” she says. “You probably recognize it yourself, that when you’re with your roommates and they ask, “glass of wine?” you’re like “yeah sure, nice.”” In accordance, Giezen says: “I think it’s self-evident that when you go out with a large group, you drink a beer together.”

Van de Graaf explains this social phenomenon as follows: “You have something in common, it connects. When everyone has a beer in their hand, you are drinkers together.”

However, van de Graaf thinks we as a society have to actively change our attitude towards consuming alcohol. “The most important thing is that we change that culture, especially within student societies. I think we are going to have to take big steps in that regard the coming years.”

Especially binge drinking, the phenomenon of drinking at least 4 glasses of alcohol for women and at least 5 for men during one occasion, is harmful. Binge drinking heightens the risk of contracting coronary heart diseases with 45%, according to the health council of Trimbos Instituut, the Dutch expert centre on alcohol.

For now, alcohol might be a consistent factor in student life, but it definitely doesn’t seem to define it. In answer to the question whether they could do without drinking, both van Blerk and Giezen answered with a loud and clear yes. Giezen did add that he “wouldn’t be at a party until 3 ‘o clock sober,” however.

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