COVID-19 has drastically altered the drinking habits of college students, creating an apparent decrease in alcohol intake among college students, according to a recent article published by Verywell Family. The article cited a study from the “Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs” claiming that students living at home with their parents have consumed much less alcohol than they would have if they were at school. Both proximity to parents and social-distancing guidelines implemented by the pandemic have resulted in many students not having access to alcohol or reasons to resort to drinking.
Lisa Arnold, clinical director of the Collegiate Recovery Program, and an alcohol and drug counselor here at Fairfield University, knows that the pandemic’s emotional and psychological effects make alcohol an even more delicate, and frankly dangerous, matter.
“I have had a lot of meetings with students since they got home,”’ said Arnold. “The overall issue with the alcohol was a lot less, because there’s less accessibility.”
Arnold described drinking among college students as an issue that is largely “geographical” and “place-based.” Therefore, being confined to at-home residencies with their parents does not encourage drinking habits in the same way. The “Journal” study suspects that upon the pandemic’s end and a return to a more normal college social life, students will significantly increase their alcohol consumption.
“Pandemic or not, students tend to get these blinders on and their thought process changes from ‘Should we drink?’ to ‘How are we going to get alcohol?’” said Arnold, describing the collective mentality of many college students. “The other activities become less and the drinking becomes more.”
Avoiding normal college environments, where this aforementioned train of thought permeates through social scenes, shares a direct correlation with the decrease in alcohol consumption amongst this demographic. While normally at-risk for developing destructive habits and dangerous long-term health outcomes, college students living at home have found a temporary solution.
However, the “Journal” study shows that college students still living amongst their peers during the pandemic have trended in the opposite direction and increased their alcohol intake. So while the “Verywell Family” website may imply that simply remaining with one’s parents can avoid the dangers of college drinking, Arnold reacts differently.
“Students have to make their time on campus fulfilling and meaningful,” said Arnold. “Some students have to dig deep and bring back skateboards and easels from home. They have to rely on things from their past and engage in things they maybe have not in a while.”
By finding other activities and pastimes that they enjoy doing, Arnold hopes students can live overall better college experiences, where the mentality around drinking changes.
Nonetheless, the issue persists, and Fairfield’s Counseling and Psychological Services Office takes extensive measures to help address all sorts of issues which pertain to this matter.
“We are looking to help students in a non-judgemental way,” said Arnold.
C&PS consists of a variety of sub-sects which can help students who struggle with alcohol in all capacities. The Collegiate Recovery Program specifically offers resources such as on-campus Alcoholics Anonymous Groups and Recovery Houses within walking distance of campus.