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Nigerian students use booze to boost brainpower in exams

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Female students at Nigerian universities frequently neck booze before exams because they believe it helps boost memory, new research reveals.

And both men and women students reach for a drop of Dutch courage to loosen up and ease their nerves while presenting papers, the same study showed.

Healing broken hearts, oiling the social wheels, and conquering fear of failure are other problems that drive Nigerian students to drink.

But exactly what motivates their drinking and their choice tipple are slightly different between men and women, offering a revealing glimpse into social stereotypes.

“Male and female students’ drinking motives included emboldening themselves with alcohol before they delivered academic reports,” said the study, published in Substance Use & Misuse.

“Some of the women thought that alcohol could enhance their retentive memory. They consumed alcohol purposefully before taking written examinations.”

Young Nigerians regularly drink large quantities of alcohol even though it’s taboo for young people to drink, especially women. Yet until now there’s been little research looking at why.

“This reveals some culturally specific nuanced roles that alcohol plays in the lives of university students,” said Dr Emeka Dumbili, who ran the study from Brunel University London.

Researchers asked university students in south-eastern Nigeria what drinking does for them, what brands they like and how much they drink at once.

Three main drivers for drinking alcohol surfaced: drinking to cope, to overcome ‘academic performance anxiety’ and to socialise. Men and women students both said alcohol gives them what they call ‘academic courage’ and they drink to soothe sorrow, anger and stress. But the women also drink to ease depression and heartache that relationship problems cause. And the students who drink to cope with problems also tend to drink more than they would in a normal session.

“Drinking together was divided along gender lines,” Dr Dumbili found:

  • The young men cling to deep-rooted drinking norms that exclude women. Most drink beer or stout, though some sink spirits and wine or a mix.
  • The women drinkers made it a ‘new form of femininity’. Many only drank alcopops, and none drank beer. One only drank Champagne. The women were more likely to switch to spirits for a faster effect. 

“But in a country that traditionally punished drunkenness, among students of both genders it is a badge of honour,” noted Dr Dumbili.

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk