Student drinking: is change possible?

Publication Date31 January 2020
Date31 January 2020
AuthorTracy Lumb
SubjectHealth & social care,Mental health,Public mental health
Student drinking: is change possible?
Tracy Lumb
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore howthe NUS (National Union of Students)’ Alcohol
Impact programme is attempting to change patterns of student drinking using findings from the 2017
Studentsand Alcohol national survey conductedby NUS as context.
Design/methodology/approach The 2017 Students and Alcohol national survey results were
gathered via the distributionof the survey using the NUS’ database of NUS extra cardholders. A total of
2,215 responses was collected.Using this information, the author has approached this paper as a case
study of NUS’Alcohol Impact Programme.
Findings Resultsfrom the 2017 Students and Alcohol nationalsurvey demonstrated that althoughthere
was a misalignment between what students perceived their peers were drinking prior to university and
what they wereactually reporting drinking, there wasthe persistence of harmful behaviours reportedafter
consumption of alcohol. Feedback from partnerships involved in the Alcohol Impact programme has
shown measurable improvements in areas including the inclusion of non-drinkers and anti-social
Originality/value Rolled out nationally, Alcohol Impact could be used to take positive steps in
addressingthe harmful consequences of student alcoholconsumption.
Keywords Students, Alcohol, National union of students
Paper type Case study
Student culture
For decades, the UK’s press has reported the prevalence of students’ binge drinking
behaviour, and for many it has been assumed to be just part of the “university experience”.
A national alcohol survey carried out by NUS each year found that in 2017, 47 per cent of
young people reported that prior to attending university they thought students got drunk
most of the time (Students and Alcohol NUS survey, 2017). However, in the same survey,
only 6 per cent of students stated they drankmore than four times a week and similarly only
6 per cent of students stated they intentionally got drunk more than once a week. With 70
per cent of students stating that they drink alcohol to fit in with their peers (Students and
Alcohol NUS survey, 2017), does this discrepancy in students’ perceptions and the reality
put pressure on students to drink more at university? The social norms approach looking at
correcting students’ overestimations of peers’ drinking is one approach that Alcohol Impact
is using to change the culture of dangerousdrinking at universities.
Alcohol Impact
Alcohol Impact was first discussed in 2013 after the Home Office approached the NUS with
funding to build a new behaviour change programme tackling students’ alcohol use,
primarily with a crime reduction focus. In 2014 the pilot worked directly with 7 students’
union and university partnerships, reaching 99,042 students, directly working with 2,970
students and 116 clubs or societies (NUS AlcoholImpact: Final Summary Report Pilot Year).
After the success of the pilot, the Alcohol Impact programme continued working with
partnerships on a self-funded basis.
Tracy Lumb is based at
Students Organising
Macclesfield, UK.
Received 5 December 2019
Revised 7 December 2019
Accepted 7 December 2019
We would like to acknowledge
the hard work of all university
and students’ union
partnerships that have been
involved in Alcohol Impact.
DOI 10.1108/JPMH-12-2019-0100 VOL. 19 NO. 1 2020, pp. 47-50, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-5729 jJOURNAL OF PUBLIC MENTAL HEALTH jPAGE 47

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