Titled Drinking to Reach the Top, the analysis shows that men and women who engage in more frequent heavy drinking occupy higher statuses within their friend groups. Set to be to be published in the October issue of Addictive Behaviors, it provides hard data to support what shows like Mad Men preach: Alcohol is a high achiever’s kryptonite.
Dr. Tara Dumas, the lead author behind the study, recruited 357 young adults between May and July 2012, en route to bars in downtown Ontario with their friends. Using three different surveys, she and her three colleagues analyzed how much heavy-drinking episodes—both the number of drinks consumed and frequency of them—played into status. Their answer backed up Dumas’ hypothesis: that more frequent drinking—consuming a larger number of drinks during one's episode—and engaging in more heavy drinking occasions in the past year, would be associated with higher peer group status.
“Research already demonstrates that young people use alcohol for social means…as a way of fitting in,” Dumas tells The Daily Beast. “Our research further suggests that young people might be gaining social status benefits via their heavy drinking, or that higher social status might encourage riskier drinking practices among young people.”
The results are an important indicator of how heavier drinkers are viewed in society. “Our measure of social status in this study is somewhat akin to social power within the friend group, with higher status group members being more popular and having more control over valuable group resources, such as group decisions,” she says.
But the phenomenon did have a threshold. Participants who said they’d consumed more than 12 drinks in one sitting generally showed no more social clout—and, in some cases, less—than those who drank less.
The data adds to an earlier study of 1,600 college students published in 2012 by the American Sociological Association, which found that binge-drinking college students were generally happier than their counterparts. “Students, who are considered more socially powerful, drink more,” said Carolyn L. Hsu, co-author of the study. “Binge drinking then becomes associated with high status and the ‘cool’ students on campus.”
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