More choose not to booze

March 10, 2006

The Sodexho- Times Higher University Lifestyle survey shows money worries preying on an increasingly sober lot of students. Anna Fazackerley reports

Student life has traditionally been characterised by beer-fuelled nights that are a blur in the morning. But the Sodexho- Times Higher survey reveals that many of today's students are embracing sobriety.

The research found that more than two out of every ten students do not drink alcohol at all.

And of those who do drink, many sip only very small quantities of alcohol each week. In total, 15 per cent of students said they drank four units - equivalent to two pints of beer - or less in the average week. A further 10 per cent said they drank between four and six units a week.

Michael Shiner, an expert on alcohol and young people from the department of social policy at the London School of Economics, found the results surprising. He said: "In the general population, the number of young people drinking has remained fairly constant, but there has been a rise in binge drinking."

He suggested that many students might shun alcohol for religious reasons.

The swing towards teetotalism is likely to be related to the increasingly diverse student population. It will hit student union bars, many of which are struggling to attract enough students to stay in business.

The survey also showed that students are continuing to take their social lives off campus. Almost half (44 per cent) of students said they did all or most of their socialising away from the university.

However, a minority of students are working hard to maintain the stereotype of the heavy-drinking young scholar. Six per cent of students said they downed more than 31 units each week, and 5 per cent said they consumed between 26 and 30 units.

A spokeswoman for the charity Alcohol Concern, said: "University is traditionally a time when people let their hair down by drinking. The real risk of being drunk at that age is one of immediate safety. Drunken students might do something they might regret, such as having unprotected sex."

She added: "In recent years, we have seen an increase in liver disease among people in their thirties and forties. These health problems may stem from drinking heavily earlier in their lives."

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