With the return of fall, students are heading to college, often away from their families. This often elicits certain behaviors, such as drinking. Drinking among students is common, whether it is for social enjoyment or the need to feel as if one belongs. However, college students often experience a negative side of drinking, including violence, poor performance in school, and unsafe sex. Studies have found that students with low self-esteem tend to drink much more than their peers who are more confident.
Hamilton & DeHart were two researchers who studied 195 students, all of whom had their self-esteem evaluated. Their results showed that students with low self-esteem drank more while out with their friends, possibly because they are less able than more confident students to compensate for self-doubts. Because students with low self-esteem do not feel as if they can rely on themselves to fit in, they may feel a stronger urge to fit in with others and therefore do whatever they can to feel as if they belong.
Research has also shown that negative experiences can lead to an increased alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism. Hamilton and DeHart also discovered that negative triggers are more powerful in students who have a low self-esteem, because they are lacking the personal buffer to make up for their feelings. In order to improve health, interventions should be done to to help students prevent low self-esteem and restore feelings of acceptance.
Environmental Change Strategies
Many prevention strategies work to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to make good decisions or to change their current harmful behaviors. Part of this may be changing their environment, or even checking into a quality rehab center. This will take away the environment in which the risky behavior is being exhibited and create a place that is easier to develop healthy habits. Taking a student who is drinking too much out of the familiar environment that is associated with drinking will help to change their mindset and their goals.
Environmental change strategies, such as going to a rehab center, have some advantages over working with just one individual. Because environmental change targets a broader audience, they are able to produce changes that are widespread. They can also create shifts in individual attitudes as well as community norms that put pressure on students to drink.
Whether through a rehab facility or through individual counseling, students can learn to gain self-esteem and self acceptance through more healthy habits. Finding a club or sport that is exciting or starting a new hobby may be a way to branch out a little to make more friends and have more self-esteem. This will lead to better health in the long run as the focus can be taken off binge drinking and put on something more constructive.
Once one is able to improve their self-image, they are less likely to feel the need to binge drink in order to fit in. While self-improvement may not lead to a complete avoidance of alcohol, it can help to reduce health and danger risks to those who engage in drinking. People who are able to complete self-improvement will likely find a sense of belonging outside of drinking.
Studies continue to show that students who have low self esteem or are not sure where they fit in tend to drink more than others. By introducing these students to rehab services or counseling, they may be able to seek the help the need to improve themselves on the inside, which will eventually lead to improvements in their behavior as well.
By: Kevin Faber