Alcohol consumption is one of the most significant health concerns around the world. It varies from country to country, but Europe is the heaviest drinking continent in the world with high level of alcohol consumption within United Kingdom and Ireland.
One uniquely endangered group is university students mostly young adults aged between 18 and 29 years of age that drink more and more due to binge drinking being an acceptable social norm among students. A vast number of scientific studies has been conducted to reach deeper into the topic of alcohol consumption among students and show how dangerous it is especially for young adults, for example a cross-sectional study conducted in a large Irish university suggests that there is a considerable evidence of a shift towards heavier alcohol use among university students and strong adverse effects of alcohol use (Davoren et al., 2015). Which is a huge problem particularly for young people that are studying to become future professionals. They are endangered the most and it is highly likely that they will suffer from consequences of such behavior, research that investigates adverse effect of alcohol use in adolescent individuals suggests notable neural and cognitive consequences of alcohol consumption specifically alterations in attention, verbal learning, visuospatial processing and memory, beside with changed development of grey and white matter volumes and disrupted white matter integrity however that is not all there are many more functional consequences of alcohol consumption such as cognitive flexibility decrease, behavioral inefficiencies and elevations in anxiety, disinhibition, impulsivity and risk-taking (Spear, 2018).
The question now should be: is there anything that triggers this specific behavior? It is obvious that studying within university is stressful for a lot of students and drinking behavior may be their way to compensate this high-level stress environment. So, this study is focused on the relationship between stress and alcohol consumption within university students.
There was a wide range of 410 participants that took part in study. Participant’s age ranged between 18 and 49, study analyzed mostly females that make up 74.6 percent of population of the research. The Majority of participants were in their first or second year of study, 48.5 percent were in the first year and 37.3 percent were in second, there was only 11.2 percent of people that studied in the third year and 2.9 percent students in their fourth year.
They were selected using opportunistic sampling technique which consists of the researcher choosing anyone who is available and willing to take part in the study.
This study was based on cross-sectional design which is focused on large data collection for each participant which is carried out in single point in time. This design was selected for this study due to amount of collected information and anticipation that this data is expected to remain static.
Materials that were used to collect the data consisted of Health Behaviors survey which included several questionnaires. Most relevant ones were psychological stress measurement which was based on 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen et al., 1983) and binge drinking defined as four or more alcoholic drinks for females and five or more for males (Wechsler et al., 1995) with emphasis on how many binge drinking episodes they had in the previous 7 days.
Participants were chosen using opportunist sampling technique so, everyone that was willing to take part in the study. Before the study took place emails were sent to university students asking if they are willing to take part in the study, after enough participants agreed to take part in research, a questionnaire with a series of questions associated to their stress levels and alcohol consumption were sent. Within emails sent there was also a consent form that every participant had to read through and give consent before taking part in the study. The questionnaire was designed to be simple and easy to understand, that way no one will have any problems or difficulties understanding the questions. After receiving response from each person involved the data was collected and compiled based on the cross-sectional study design. Then data was analyzed with the help of IBM SPSS Statistics program which concluded that there is in fact a positive correlation between stress levels and binge drinking.
After collection of data and careful analysis, there is clear relation among stress and alcohol consumption which indicates that binge drinking may be some kind of reaction to high level stress which without doubt is a part of studying in university. Outcome of the study shows that without a question there is a positive correlation between stress and alcohol consumption, and it is significant at the 0.05 level.
This study proves that there is positive correlation between stress and alcohol consumption, most likely high stress level which students experience throughout their studies triggers a reaction that makes them more susceptible to high alcohol consumption which supports hypothesis stated in the introduction. It is no surprise that relation exists due to a huge pool of studies based on relation of stress and alcohol that suggested this kind of link. The disturbing fact is the shift towards heavier alcohol use that was observed in Irish university (Davoren et al., 2015) which inferably relates to hypothesis stated in the introduction. It is easy to deduce if students lean more and more towards heavier alcohol use (binge drinking) and alcohol consumption grows proportionally with feeling of stress, this may possibly mean that high stress levels within university students are also on the rise and in consequence they are looking for easy way to ease the discomfort of being frequently under stress.
Study was conducted using cross-sectional design which is based on collecting data at one point in time and straight away analyzing it. It is a limitation in itself because information may vary when data collection happens more than once and outcome may prove to be more reliable than it is when data is collected once.
There was 410 participant and 74.6 percent was female, it is a large majority of the group which makes the study less consistent when analyzing male stress and drinking behavior, but also because it focuses more on females it is specialized and more reliable when it comes to research of female student’s stress and alcohol consumption.
The study was under-representative of students at further year of study specifically third- and fourth-years students while first- and second-year students were overly represented.
This specific are of knowledge is constantly evolving but still needs improvement and more long-term research. The main weakness of research in the field is under-representation of certain groups and limited time resources to conduct such research on a large scale and long-term. The problem of heavy alcohol use within universities is a developing problem, with time it may become bigger so, studies conducted in the future are more than certain.