College students who binge drink are happier than their peers who prefer to drink in moderation, according to a new study from Colgate University in New York.

The study, based on analysis of nearly 1,600 undergraduates at a liberal arts college in 2009, found that students from 'higher' status groups are more likely to binge drink than their peers from lower social bands - and students in the higher groups are consistently happier with their college experience.

The researchers also found that binge drinking raises the social satisfaction of students in lower status groups, and expressed the view that most students start binge drinking just to fit into their college.

However, the study did not find that unhappy students drink to alleviate their depression. Students in the sample with the deepest stress and anxiety, and worst experiences of discrimination or sexual abuse, were found to be the least likely to drink.

Carolyn L Hsu, associate professor of sociology at Colgate, said that "binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for high status in college. It's what the most powerful, wealthy, and happy students on campus do. This may explain why it's such a desirable activity.

"When lower status students binge drink, they may be trying to tap into the benefits and the social satisfaction that those kids from high status groups enjoy. And our findings seem to indicate that, to some extent, they succeed."

Although binge drinking may carry some positive social effects, many researchers, scientists and doctors have found that it has a major impact on health, leading to cardiac cancer, blood pressure and mouth cancer.

"It's not that binge drinking is the solution to complex social problems. Rather, it is our hope that when universities and public health professionals design alcohol related programmes for students, they take into account the full range and important social motivations underlying student binge drinking," Hsu said.