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This article was taken from Herald Scotland, 10th May
STUDENTS are more likely to become heavy drinkers once they leave university, Scottish research has found.
The UK-wide study also showed the longer term impact of a drinking culture in higher education was particularly prevalent amongst female students.
Researchers called on institutions to examine the findings to assess whether they were doing enough to combat exposure to excess alcohol at university because of the long-term implications for health.
The study, by Glasgow University academics, comes after previous research showed students are more likely to drink, smoke and take drugs than the general population with peer pressure, cheap student bars and the freedom of living away from home all seen as contributing factors.
Dr Michael Green, a research associate with the Glasgow University’s public health sciences unit, said: “Students are often moving away from home and they have more freedom and fewer responsibilities and they are associating with a lot of other people who are in a similar situation.
“That environment contributes to heavy drinking as well as the fact the drinks industry is promoting drinking to students because they think it can be profitable.”
Mr Green said the association between heavier drinking and former students was stronger for females than males.
He added: “Previously women would have tended to drink less than their male counterparts, but those that went to university would have been that much more likely to drink.
“Student drinking has been recognised as a problem for a while and there are various interventions that people have been doing to try and ameliorate that.
“Whether this is taken seriously varies from institution to institution, but what we are trying to do is provide information to those that have responsibility for students so they know what the problem is and raise awareness about it.”
Jonny Ross-Tatam, president of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association, said it “wasn’t helpful” to reinforce stereotypes of a student drinking culture.
He said: “Levels of alcohol consumption vary hugely among students, just as they do in all sections of society and we offer a wide range of events and activities, some with alcohol and some without.
“In the venues we run we promote quality over quantity, and our staff are trained in promoting responsible drinking to all our customers.
“We make sure we provide students with information on responsible drinking when they join us, and there’s always advice available on our website.”
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said: “Scotland’s universities bring together students from all backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, religions and ages and this contributes to a rich and very varied range of social events on offer, the majority of which will have nothing to do with alcohol.
“Universities have been pleased to support student associations build Freshers’ week activities, societies and programmes of events for students that add to their educational experience and don’t centre around alcohol.
“Universities have a duty of care towards their students and that includes support for anyone suffering from problems linked to alcohol.”
She said all universities offer a student counselling service and can refer students to specialist medical and counselling services if required.
The study was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office.