We created the #NeverAgain campaign during freshers’ week to encourage students to drink less riskily and begin to act as sensible drinking role models. Were we striving for the impossible?
It’s a commonly held view that students spend more time in the pub than they do in lectures. But is this really true? With more and more students having to pay for their own education, surely this old view must be out of date?
In the UK, half of all male undergraduates regularly binge drink compared to a sixth of the rest of the adult population, and students spend a huge £940 million on alcohol in the UK each year, that’s £270 million MORE than they spend on food.
For many students, arrival at university is the first time they experience freedom from parental control. Add to that the pressure to make new friends and conform to a new lifestyle, and alcohol starts to play a more significant part in many student’s lives than it ever did before.
But it’s only a bit of fun, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, many first year students develop a pattern of risky drinking that continues into adulthood. And freshers’ week, at its worst, can result in hospitalisation, violence and disastrous sexual encounters. Also, as with anyone else, drinking excessively disrupts natural sleep patterns, can bring on depression and impairs academic performance.
HAGA’s #NeverAgain Campaign
We took the #NeverAgain campaign to four North London colleges and set up stalls during freshers’ week to engage with the new students. We encouraged students to share their #NeverAgain moment, a memorably negative experience or outcome related to alcohol, summing it up in short message and saying why they never want to be in that situation again. We encouraged students to write it down, pin it up and tweet it to raise awareness.
In addition, we screened students to determine their risk levels related to drinking, and handed out free #NeverAgain packs, which included:
freshers’ week survival tips
unit measuring glasses
a DontBottleItUp unit and calorie calculator
a bottle stopper to prevent spiking
a tea bag
In all, we spoke to 563 students, handed out 447 #NeverAgain packs and screened 172 people
The #NeverAgain tales ranged from silly to serious: throwing up on a swan, waking up in hospital and regretted sexual encounters cited as examples.
Our screening highlighted some worrying statistics: 74% of students we spoke to were risky drinkers, with 60% drinking at Increasing Risk levels. (That’s regularly drinking more than the recommended limits but not often bingeing). And with 7% of students screened drinking at High Risk / possible dependence levels, it looks like the statistics back up the commonly held view.