Freshers’ week saw many students indulge in the most alcohol intensive week of their lives, with many extending this trend and continuing to drink multiple times a week. Some studies have suggested, however, that less and less of us are choosing to drink. According to NUS, 21% of students claim not to drink and it is believed that the implementation of the Alcohol Impact Programme has impacted this.
One student of Newcastle University stated that he no longer drinks due to becoming more aware of the negative health impacts that alcohol has on his body. “I recently stopped drinking”, he said. “I know that (drinking) is very unhealthy and could cause me to gain weight”. This student also feels that many university students could become reliant on alcohol and are likely to think they need to drink to fit in with their peers- this is a recurring opinion, as 70% of students feel that people drink to fit in with friends, the NUS survey claims.
However, many students do not believe this to be a problem they personally experience, as 41% stated that they do not feel their friends expect them to drink. Two Newcastle students admitted concerns about starting university as non-drinkers. “I was very worried about starting uni, particularly with Newcastle’s nightlife reputation… the uni has a huge drinking culture. It has put me off joining a number of societies due to their socials revolving around alcohol and clubbing.”
Alternatively, four other non-drinking students said that they didn't feel they needed alcohol to have a fun night, with one student stating how impressed he was that many Freshers’ Week activities. Many feel that offering these events over the year makes it much easier for students to socialise without feeling under pressure to drink.
Another point, which was highlighted by two female students at Newcastle University, was that one of the reasons they no longer drink is due to feeling in a more vulnerable state when drunk and not wanting to put themselves in dangerous situations, especially in a city environment. This is a fear held by many young students, particularly when out in a new place.
Despite an increasing number of people opting to drink less or even go teetotal, the number of students who drink regularly remains particularly high. The NUS student drinking report found that 50% of students drink at least once a week and 29% drink between 3 and 7 times. When asked about the negative impacts of their drinking, a group of Newcastle University student expressed concerns over how hangovers affect their education. “Reading is much more difficult the morning after having a drink and it can be a struggle to get up for my 9 AM lectures.”
It appears these risks are not putting students off drinking as, when questioned, the majority of local students admitted to drinking between three to six times a week. All but one of these students said that alcohol wasn’t necessary to have a fun night but they all believe that drinking is a large part of university culture.
It appears that more freshers are choosing to go sober throughout their uni life compared to past years and it is becoming easier for them to participate in social activities with like-minded people. It is possible that Newcastle University has aided this by providing more inclusive events for non-drinkers. However, Newcastle itself as a city is renowned for its nightlife, so arguably, it is to be expected that a majority of students are likely to continue to drink regularly.
By Chloe Twiselton