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Student Culture and Binge Drinking

New Zealand student culture has had a strong tradition of alcohol use. Research, both in New Zealand and internationally, has identified halls of residence student drinkers as at more risk of alcohol-related harm than their same age non-resident and non-student peers. This research project investigates the relationship between student culture and binge drinking behaviour within the University of Waikato's halls of residence student population. It combines qualitative and quantitative methods encompassing focus groups, individual face-to-face interviews, and a survey questionnaire completed by sixty percent of the resident student population. The resulting data are set within the context of existing literature on student drinking behaviour and student culture, and the analysis is undertaken using a combination of grounded theory and statistical analysis. The study reveals that binge drinking behaviour was viewed by the majority of residents as a normal component of student culture, with one-half of male residents who drink and one-third of female drinking residents becoming intoxicated on a weekly basis. Contrary to the popular perception that student drinking behaviour is an uncontrolled activity however, the majority of residents' practised 'controlled intoxication' while drinking. Overall, most residents enjoyed their drinking experiences and showed a high level of tolerance towards many alcohol-related harms. There is clear evidence that resident drinking behaviour impacts adversely upon residents, with one-half of residents having experienced academic and/or physical harms, and twenty percent reporting sexual encounters they later regretted. One-third of residents had also felt unsafe due to the drinking behaviour of others. Adopting the precepts of a social-ecological approach, this thesis argues that a range of multi-level harm-minimisation strategies targeting resident drinking behaviour are required, in conjunction with renewed efforts to effect change in the New Zealand drinking culture. Fifteen alcohol-intervention initiatives are recommended which variously target the individual drinker, the halls of residence environment, the institutional environment, and the local community drinking environment. The national drinking environment is also pursued through recommendations advocating legislative change to make it an offence to be intoxicated in a public place, and through social marketing strategies which encourage peer feedback, the shaming of intoxicated behaviour, and the continued emphasis on the association between drinking and its adverse effects.
Type of thesis
McEwan, B. J. (2009). Student Culture and Binge Drinking (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3968
The University of Waikato
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