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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Study: Binge Drinkers Are Cooler, More Popular (For a While)

Heavy drinkers often climb to the top of the social ladder, say researchers. But it can be precarious up there.

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Binge drinking can give you one hell of a hangover, ruin your liver and maybe shorten your life. But before you drink your way to an early grave, you could be the coolest and most popular person in your friend group! At least, according to the findings of a new study, titled “Drinking to Reach the Top.”

Researchers collected data from 357 young adults randomly recruited on their way to hit the bars in downtown Ontario, two years ago. They then looked at how much, and how often, the study participants drank, and analyzed how this influenced their social standing within their group of friends. They found that those who drank the most and the most often had the “highest peer group status.”

This is hardly a shock, since it’s often that “fun guy” at every party who ends up in rehab (Don Draper being a prime example). The findings corroborate the findings from an earlier study that found binge-drinking college students were generally “happier” than their peers.

“Research already demonstrates that young people use alcohol for social means…as a way of fitting in,” says study lead, Dr. Tara Dumas. “Our research further suggests that young people might be gaining social status benefits via their heavy drinking, or that higher social status might encourage riskier drinking practices among young people.”

But there was a limit: Participants who said they’d consumed more than a dozen drinks at a time were not as popular and “cool” as those who were able to cap their intake at 12. So, while regular binge drinking might be considered cool, apparently stumbling, slurring and vomiting (all likely results of consuming 12 or more drinks at a time) are not en vogue.

Women aren’t exempt from this phenomenon. Though “functional” hard drinkers in film and TV tend to be more often male (like Don Draper and James Bond), the study found the link between binge drinking and popularity to apply for women, too (though the pattern was “more pronounced” among men).

Dumas says the results of the study aren’t meant to serve as a “How To” for young people looking to climb the social ladder. Instead, the findings are an important reflection on how American society views heavy drinking, and she hopes they will “encourage prevention programming that addresses young people’s status-related concerns around drinking and teaches them how to be socially integrated while also adopting responsible drinking practices.”

Also, before you duct-tape forties to your hands, keep in mind that reigning supreme over your group of friends in the bar scene can come with a heavy price. Past research has found underage binge drinking contributes to the three leading causes of death in America: unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide. And according to the National Institute of Health, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to heart attacks, stroke, cirrhosis, and a higher risk for various forms of cancer. And excessive boozing is the third leading cause of lifestyle-related death in the US, killing about 88,000 Americans per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s not so cool, bro.