By Mike Ghenu
There is a wide gulf between the preception and the reality of student drinking, according to a study by the Student Life Education Company.
The study found that about 60 per cent of students drink only once or twice a month. About the same number report having between one and four drinks on each occasion.
However, 80 per cent believe their peers drink more than once a week. Two-thirds believe others consume five or more drinks at parties or bars, and 25 per cent think their peers have seven or more drinks at each occasion.
“This study is not surprising because it reveals the tremendous gap between perception and reality that exists in our culture, and is not limited to drinking,” said sociology professor Stephen Muzzatti.
The media, he added, associate university students with drinking. The SLEC has planned an educational campaign to help students drink more responsibly by showing them that if their peers aren’t consuming as much alcohol as everyone thinks, they may start to curb their drinking habits.
A $1 million donation from the Brewers of Canada is helping to fund the campaign. Besides perceptions, students may engage in high-risk drinking behaviours for a number of reasons, according to Alison Burnett, Ryerson’s health promotion nurse.
They may be away from home for the first time, they may not know their limits, or they may be using alcohol to cope with stress.
“We educate students about the effects of excessive alcohol use over the short and long-term, how to recognize a problem within themselves or a friend and how to get help,” said Burnett.
Some Ryerson students agree with the study. A few even said they did not drink at all, for personal, religious or legal reasons. “It’s the company you keep,” said first-year aerospace engineering student Dharan Vinayagarasa.
“If you’re in a big group, the need to fit in and not feel alienated might cause you to drink too much.” Julia Che, a fourth-year fashion student, was surprised by the findings, but said going for drinks is needed at Ryerson.
“It’s a good idea to put the facts out there,” she said. “But Ryerson is a commuter school, so bars are a place to socialize and meet people.” Not everyone believed the study’s results accurately depicted university life.
“I think students might be bending the truth a little about how much they really drink,” said second-year photography student Madison d’Andrea, adding the findings might have an impact right away. “It might make people who drink a lot think twice.”