See it off: Survey reveals students pressured to drink

See it off: Survey reveals students pressured to drink

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Image credit: Exeter Guild
Image credit: Exeter Guild
  • 52.7% of Exeter students feel “pressurised” into drinking
  • 83% feel that alcohol helps them to socialise
  • 38.4% consider drinking to be an “essential” part of university life
  • 19.8% see alcohol as the only way to make friends

A survey examining the drinking habits of students at the University of Exeter has revealed that 52.7 per cent of students feel pressurised to drink by their peers. The online survey, held by the University of Exeter Students’ Guild, intended to discover accurate details of student drinking habits.

The survey also suggested that this pressure to drink increases through university, as 58.8 per cent of third years surveyed said they said pressurised, in comparison to 49.5 per cent of first years. Male respondents were seen to feel the peer pressure to drink more extensively, with 53.5 per cent of the male students who responded saying they felt pressure, as opposed to 52.4 per cent of the female students who answered.

Approximately 83 per cent of the 656 respondents either “agree” or “strongly agree” that alcohol helps them to socialise, with only 5.8 per cent saying that they disagreed or strongly disagreed that it helped them make friends.

One respondent to the survey also commented: “drinking can be a very socially exclusive process”.

19.8 per cent of students also agreed or strongly agreed that alcohol was the ONLY way they could fit in or make friends at university, while 38.4 per cent of respondents said that they agreed with the idea that the consumption of alcohol constituted an “essential” part of university life.

When asked about the number of units of alcohol they drank per week, 14.6 per cent of female respondents said that they drank more than 14 units on an average week. The NHS website recommends that women drink no more than two to three units of alcohol per day on a regular basis, which would indicate a recommended weekly maximum of 14 units. Furthermore, 30.9 per cent of male respondents say that they drink more than 21 units a week, with the NHS recommending that men drink no more than three to four units per day.

9.6 per cent of female respondents also said that they drink more than 14 units in a single sitting, with 4.5 per cent of male respondents claiming that they have drunk more than 21 units in a single night.

The NHS is also quick to cite the harmful effects of drinking too much. Potential negative effects include infertility, liver damage, high blood pressure, an increased risk of various cancers, and heart attacks, as well as weight gain and reduced physical fitness.

The NHS website also suggests that people drinking more than their recommended daily allowance of alcohol would be “increasing risk drinkers” who are more susceptible to health concerns, including cancers, high blood pressure, and cirrhosis.

23.4 per cent of students also said that they had been present at or part of drinking initiations. Initiations are banned at the University of Exeter after a male student died after an AU initiation in November 2006. The student had been on a poorly organised social, and an inquest heard that the members of the AU club the man was with were too drunk to fully know of his whereabouts.

According to the survey, boys were marginally more likely to have been involved in or present at initiations, with 24.3 per cent of male respondents saying that they have seen or been active in such practices. 22.4 per cent of female respondents, by comparison, claim to have been at such initiations.

The survey indicated that older students were more likely to have been at the initiations, with 29.6 per cent of fourth year respondents saying they had been to an initiation, compared to 21.9 per cent of the first year students who responded.

In the section of the survey where students could comment on alcohol culture at the university more generally, some students mentioned what they perceived to be a culture of excessive drinking within university sports clubs.

One respondent stated: “The drinking culture around sports clubs is intimidating and irresponsible”.

Another said: “many students, especially on sports socials, do drink to get horrendously drunk quite deliberately”, while a third respondent claimed: “Initiations are supposed to be illegal at Exeter, but second and third years are very forceful in forcing first years to drink, i.e. threatening to throw them out of the society”.

The AU could not be reached for comment when they were emailed and telephoned by Exeposé.

70 per cent of those who responded also said that they felt safe in Exeter city centre when socialising in the evening, as opposed to only 8 per cent who said that they did not feel safe in the city at night.

Since 2009, Exeter Street Pastors have patrolled the streets on Friday and Saturday nights in order to help revellers who find themselves in distress while on a night out in the city. Since the scheme’s initiation, the lives of at least two people partying in the city have been saved by the Pastors, whose primary tasks include picking up broken glass, administering first aid treatment, and ensuring that people get home safely.

The Students’ Guild also utilises a Welcome Team during Freshers’ Week, a time when students are potentially more vulnerable to excessive alcohol consumption.

The survey also asked students about their awareness of the law regarding the sale of alcohol in entertainment venues. Although it is illegal for a pub or club to serve alcohol to an identifiably drunk customer,  the survey indicated that only 52 per cent of students were aware of this.

24 per cent of students could remember an incident when they had gained access to a pub or club when already excessively inebriated. A further 22 per cent could identify a time when they had been served in a pub or club despite being already very drunk.

When asked which entertainment venues had admitted or served alcohol to respondents when already drunk, Arena, Timepiece and the Lemon Grove were the most frequently reported.

Of those respondents that could identify a time they had been admitted to a club whilst excessively drunk, 67.4 per cent of students identified Arena as having allowed them entry, with 38.1 per cent and 23.8 per cent of students citing Timepiece and the Lemon Grove respectively.

53.8 per cent of respondents who could remember a time when they had been very drunk and still served alcohol named Arena as having done so. This figure was significantly higher than the 35.6 per cent of these respondents who could remember being served whilst drunk in Timepiece and the 16.25 per cent who could remember being served in the Lemon Grove.

Exeposé contacted Arena and Timepiece about the survey, but neither venue elected to make a comment.

When asked for comment by Exeposé, Chris Young, the Students’ Guild Licensed Trade Manager, said: “As a Best Bar None award winning venue, the Lemon Grove delivers comprehensive training to all our student staff on various aspects of working in licensed trade including recognising drunkenness and the appropriate action to take to refuse service and entry if necessary. Customer safety is a priority for the venue management team and we fully support any initiatives and campaigns that promote alcohol awareness and safer drinking to our students”.

The survey’s section on Alcohol and Risk also indicated that 22 per cent of respondents were more likely to have a one night stand after drinking alcohol, while 37 per cent were more likely to have lost valuable items like keys, mobile phones, or money.

42 per cent said they were likely to walk home alone after a night out, while 19 per cent, nearly one in five, said that they would be more likely to leave their drink unattended.

9 per cent also said that they were likelier to get into a fight after drinking, while 48 per cent admitted might be noisy on their way home after a night out.

24 per cent said they were more likely to have posted regrettable messages on social media, and 21 per cent claimed they would be more likely to get involved in pranks like moving road signs and interfering with parked cars.

When asked about alcohol promotions in entertainment venues and supermarkets, one in four students agreed or strongly agreed that cheap alcohol offers in shops and supermarkets enticed them to drink more than they had planned. By contrast, 48 per cent of students disagreed that these offers persuaded them to drink more than they had intended.

Some students also told the survey that the placement of alcohol in shopsmade them more likely to buy drinks which they hadn’t previously intended to purchase. Feedback from respondents indicated that cheap alcohol near the cash registers was often a decisive factor in what they purchased.

45 per cent of students said, however, that cheap alcohol offers in clubs persuaded them to drink more, as opposed to 30 per cent who disagreed that these promotions had any effect on their alcohol intake.

47 per cent of respondents said that ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offers encouraged them to drink more, with 355 students overall either agreeing or strongly agreeing. The survey also revealed that 53.2 per cent of students regularly play drinking games. Second years, however, were the most likely to do so with 60.2 per cent engaging in such activities, compared to 46.6 per cent of first years and 57.7 per cent of third years.

Some students responding to the survey complained how drinking games, which they said often makes up a significant part of ‘pre-drinks’ before a night out, are only inclusive if you are drinking alcohol, indicating that this could lead to more students drinking in order to fit in.

Additionally, 29.8 per cent of female respondents agreed that they drink because there are not enough alcohol free events available for them to attend, in comparison to 23.3 per cent of male students who felt the same. While some students said that they had actually drunk less at university because of the wider breadth of opportunities and activities on campus, one student commented that non-alcoholic events were often seen as for “losers” or seen to be “uncool”. Unless these perceptions were reversed, the student suggested, then these events would continue to be unpopular.

The survey answered earlier this term by over 650 students through a portal on the Guild’s website. It ran from October 21 to November 8. Students from a range of disciplines completed the survey, with 406  female and 246 male students providing answers. 41.5 per cent of the respondents were first years, 26.2 per cent were second years and 31.7 per cent were third or fourth years.

Chris Rootkin, VP Welfare & Community, commented on the survey: “This survey has effectively highlighted issues relating to alcohol consumption such as peer pressure to drink. I believe that students should be empowered to make their own decisions about drinking. The survey also identified where there is work that we can do in partnership with venues in Exeter to look after our students’ safety and wellbeing. These survey results will be invaluable in planning welfare strategy with the Students’ Guild, the University and our partners in the Exeter community.”

A university spokesman said: “We take the health and wellbeing of our students very seriously and have put in place a number of initiatives to challenge the perception that alcohol is integral to having a good time at University. We work very closely with the Students’ Guild on wellbeing events, awareness raising and education for students. This includes alcohol-awareness training for Guild and Athletic Union officers to promote social activity for student clubs and societies. Any Freshers Week activity which involves alcohol must also offer a non-alcohol-based alternative. In partnership with Addaction we have developed Alcohol Awareness workshops; students are referred to these workshops where there is concern about the impact alcohol may be having on their welfare and/or conduct. We work with external venues and agencies on responsible drinking and licensing campaigns, hence all entertainment venues have free drinking water. We also have many venues on campus which do not serve alcohol”.

Owen Keating, News Editor and Meg Drewett, Editor

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