Bottle of beer

Cheers! Social Drinking is Actually Good For You.

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Why Social Drinking Can be Good For You

Bottle of beer

AT LAST! Those brainboxes over at Oxford University in the UK have done something really useful: New research shows that moderate alcohol consumption may be linked to improved well-being, thanks to the improved social interaction associated with having a drink with friends at a local pub.

Translation: Having a beer at your local is GOOD FOR YOU. YAY!

While most research usually warns of the health risks of alcohol consumption, this study looked at whether having a drink may play a role in improving social cohesion, since having a drink with friends has long been part of human interaction.

So what did they do? Well first they combined data from three separate studies:

  1. A questionnaire-based study of pub patrons
  2. Observing conversational behaviour in pubs
  3. A UK-wide national survey

Then they tallied the results to see whether the frequency of alcohol consumption or the type of venue affected people’s’ social experiences and wellbeing.

And guess what? They found that people who have a ‘local’ that they visit regularly tend to feel more socially engaged and contented, and are more likely to trust other members of their community. They also found that those poor souls without a local pub had significantly smaller social networks and felt less engaged with, and trusting of, their local communities.

Translation: Going to your community pub builds a sense of community and trust. Well…duh.

Interestingly, the study also showed that those who drank at local pubs tended to socialize in smaller groups, which encouraged whole-group conversation, while those drinking in city-centre bars tended to be in much larger groups, and participated much less in group conversation.

Translation: It’s easier to actually have a group conversation in your friendly local than in a busy bar with pumping music. (Not to mention just plain nicer to be able to hear yourself think!)

Prof. Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford’s Experimental Psychology department, said: ‘This study showed that frequenting a local pub can directly affect peoples’ social network size and how engaged they are with their local community, which in turn can affect how satisfied they feel in life.

‘Our social networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness. While pubs traditionally have a role as a place for community socializing, alcohol’s role appears to be in triggering the endorphin system, which promotes social bonding. Like other complex bonding systems such as dancing, singing, and storytelling, it has often been adopted by large social communities as a ritual associated with bonding.’

Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s (Campaign For Real Ale) National Chairman, said: ‘Personal wellbeing and happiness have a massive impact not only on individual lives but on communities as a whole. It will be of no surprise to CAMRA members that pubs play such a pivotal role in a person’s wellbeing, but it is fantastic news to hear that this wisdom has now been confirmed by research.

‘Pubs play a unique role in offering a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends in a responsible, supervised community setting.’

So basically, now you have a real bona fide excuse to head to Kramer’s for a pint of beer and enjoy some social cohesion! We always KNEW going to the pub was good for you!

This article is adapted from an original post appearing on Oxford University’s blog:

The full paper, ‘Functional benefits of (modest) alcohol consumption’, can be read in the journal Adaptive Human Behaviour and Physiology.