Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Does drinking really make you happy?

30 June 2016, 11:02

For those of us that partake, drinking alcohol is often seen as a balancing act that weighs up the pleasures of drinking against the pains. Government regulation is often seen the same way, weighing the benefits of pleasure and freedom of the individual on one hand against the cost of crime and health harms on the other. Yet while such simplicity has its charms, it might actually lead to bad alcohol policies that don’t achieve the best balance between pleasure and pain.

For example, in the eyes of some – including simplistic versions of cost-benefit models used by some governments - every time you have a drink you make a fully rational decision to maximise your own utility. This ignores issues of alcohol addiction and the fact that it’s quite a stretch to describe yourself as “fully rational” at 2am after ten pints when a friend has just suggested a round of tequila.

But because pleasure is not generally something that alcohol researchers examine, the alcohol debate is dominated by either these naive models or optimistic assertions by lobbyists about alcohol’s happiness-inducing effects.

In a new paper published in Social Science and Medicine, George MacKerron and I examined what evidence there was to tease out the relationship between alcohol and happiness. To try to capture some of the complexities, we took two approaches:

One study collected data from iPhone users through the Mappiness app app George created, which buzzed people a couple of times a day to ask how happy they were, what they were doing, and who they were doing it with. This is a huge study, with over 2m observations from more than 30,000 people.

The other study was more traditional, using the 1970 British Cohort Study to see how the cohort’s members’ alcohol consumption changed between the ages of 30, 34 and 42, and what links we can see between changes in their life satisfaction and their drinking.

What we found is that alcohol does make you happier in the moment, by about three to four points on a zero to 100 scale. These models look at changes within individuals over time, and ignore differences between different sorts of people.

There’s also no sign of a hangover effect on happiness, although people tend to be less awake the morning after drinking.

But there are several substantial caveats to this evidence of a pleasurable effect. There is a relatively small overspill of happiness into moments when people are not drinking (a difference of less than 0.5 points on a zero to 100 scale between those weeks or months in which people drink more versus less often).

What’s more, looking at year-to-year changes, people are no more satisfied with life in heavier-drinking years than in lighter-drinking years. Indeed, if they develop a drink problem, then they become noticeably less satisfied with life (by about 0.2 points on a zero to ten scale).

These are the effects on average, and there is good reason to think that different patterns of drinking in different settings will have different effects on different types of people. The iPhone users in the Mappiness study, for example, are much younger and richer than average, and we only know whether people are drinking, not the amount they drink or indeed what they’re drinking. Anecdotally, most of us can think of drinks that we particularly enjoyed, and others that, in retrospect (or even at the time), made us less happy.

To return to alcohol policies, these findings challenge the naive assumption that all drinking makes us more happy in every way, and prompts us to think more carefully about what we might mean by “pleasure” or “happiness” in this context. Instead, it should make us consider whether there are possible policies that could help us cut down only the drinks that don’t make us happy. It might even be the case that – as found for cigarette taxes – certain regulation may make us happier as well as healthier than we were before.

Most of all, we need to stop reducing the whole spectrum of human pleasure to naive economic models or the vested interests of governments, companies or lobby groups, and actually think about how much we value different aspects of pleasure and enjoyment – including how we drink alcohol – and which policies best balance alcohol’s pleasures against its harms.

The Conversation

Ben Baumberg Geiger, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

- The Conversation


Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...