As millennials head off to college, the media has focused on this generation’s alleged narcissistic tendencies, with Time Magazine going so far as to title a cover article about them, “The Me Me Me Genaration.” It goes on to say they are “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” A National Institutes of Health study revealed that in 2009, college students showed a 58% higher rate of narcissism than students in 1982.
While this topic is no doubt newsworthy, it’s not nearly as life threatening to college students as “Drunkorexia” – a habit of alcohol abuse and self-starvation that a new survey suggests is all too common on college campuses.
Researchers at the University of Houston found that 80 percent of students involved in the study engaged in at least one behavior that qualified as drunkorexic in the past three months. Drunkorexia might not be a recognized medical term, but healthcare professionals have long been aware of the condition.
“The effect is very well known and has been discussed and observed by many experts,” the psychiatry chair at Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School, Dr. Petros Levounis, told CBS News.
What Are the Health Risks of Drunkorexia?
The associated health risks of drunkorexia are serious and potentially deadly and can include:
- Consuming alcohol while malnourished predisposes a person to greater chance for alcohol poisoning, blackouts, illness, violence, alcohol related injury or death
- Alcohol permeates the blood quicker in the absence of food to absorb it, getting a person drunker quicker and leading to a higher risk of alcohol-related brain damage in binge drinkers
- A starving body already lacks essential vitamins and minerals, but adding alcohol to that effectively strips any remaining nutrition from a person’s metabolism and can cause long-term or short-term cognitive issues
- 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder nationwide, according to the nonprofit National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- Eating disorders account for the highest rate of mortality among all mental illnesses
- Research has clearly shown a link between substance abuse and eating disorders, with those suffering from eating disorders more likely than those without to develop chemical dependencies or addictions
Why is Drunkorexia Popular on College Campuses?
As to why drunkorexia has gained a foothold on college campuses, there are quite a few theories. Perhaps one of the more relevant observations is how body conscious millennials are, which aligns with the claims of their narcissistic inclination. Their lives and, more specifically, bodies, have been captured in pictures on social media platforms from the outset.
So stepping into a college environment where, at least on some level, peer-pressure is at its fiercest, staying skinny by saving calories for a few drinks at a fraternity party might not feel like a big deal.
The condition is more common in women, but young, college-aged men are certainly vulnerable as well. The University of Houston study also found that students residing in fraternity or sorority houses were at greater risk for engaging in these behaviors.
Perhaps more surprising is what the study author told CBS News, that drunkorexia is particularly prevalent among college athletes.
Educating students on the grave dangers of drunkorexia is an obvious first step in trying to prevent the condition. Some officials even suggest that greater regulation and monitoring of on-campuses housing is called for, which students will most certainly balk at.
Making sure that students, their parents and educators are aware of all the available treatment resources in their area and that eating disorders, as well as alcoholism, are treatable conditions must also rank high on the dean’s list of things to do.
With all the talk of narcissism and body image, maybe student health and well-being should get a little more emphasis. After all, it’s difficult to get an education when physical and mental health is suffering.