The science of emotions for drinking alcohol

Earlier this month, I told you how the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) published a baseless manifesto against any and all alcohol consumption. They decided to toss aside the breadth of science that confirms the many health benefits of moderate drinking. And instead, they focused on the health risks suffered by the small minority of alcohol consumers who drink to excess.

If you regularly read my Daily Dispatch, you know I’m no prohibitionist. I always follow the science. And the science shows that moderate alcohol consumption benefits your health. It even reduces mortality rates.

Mind you, early studies on alcohol in the 1980s honed in on the benefits of red wine. And some researchers assumed red wine — instead of white wine, beer, or other types of alcohol — had some kind of special, “magic bullet” ingredient that conferred all the observed health benefits.

But that “magic bullet” theory never made sense to me — and it never materialized. In fact, as I’ve said for 25 years, trying to find the single, “magic” ingredient in alcohol (or in anything, really) that boosts longevity is a waste of time and research money.

It’s obvious to me that drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol lowers stress, the No. 1 silent killer lurking behind high blood pressure, heart disease, Type II diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Plus, more recent studies show that drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol — whether wine, beer, or spirits — confer benefits for your brain and heart.

So, as far as I’m concerned, this case is settled: Moderate alcohol consumption offers many health benefits — regardless of the type of alcohol consumed.

However, a new study shows drinking different types of alcohol does trigger different emotions.

What’s your pleasure?

For this study, researchers accessed the Global Drug Survey (GDS), the world’s largest, which includes data in 11 different languages worldwide. They looked at data on 29,836 participants, ages 18 to 34 years from the GDS’s 2016 annual survey.

The respondents reported the type and amount of alcohol they consumed and the emotions they experienced.

Turns out, respondents who drank spirits were more likely to report experiencing positive emotions than those who drank beer or wine. (Perhaps that action explains why those types of liquor are known as “spirits.”)

More specifically, of the participants who drank spirits:

  • 59 percent reported feeling confident
  • 58 percent reported feeling energetic
  • 48 percent reported feeling sexy

However, spirits were also more likely to draw out certain negative feelings too:

  • 48 percent associated spirits with feeling ill
  • 30 percent associated spirts with feeling aggression (a much higher percentage than with other types of alcohol)

As for red wine drinkers:

  • 53 percent reported feeling relaxed

Indeed, red wine was the most likely of all types of alcohol to make the respondents feel tired. And almost half of those who drank beer reported feeling relaxed as well.

So, it appears drinking red wine or beer encouraged more feelings of relaxation compared to spirits. But did that finding have to do with the type of drink or the circumstances for drinking? For example, very often people choose a spirit or a cocktail for celebrations…versus beer or wine to unwind after a long day.

Overall, the researchers found complex relationships between alcoholic beverage choices and emotions. They also noted that mood prior to drinking, and even advertising, can influence emotions associated with certain types of alcohol.

Some other interesting findings…

The researchers noted that people with less education, women, and younger participants were all more likely to experience strong emotions while drinking.

Some results pertained to specific areas of the globe. For example:

  • South America (Brazil and Colombia) had the highest proportion of positive emotions — they reported feeling energized, relaxed, and sexy.
  • Norway had the highest proportion association with feeling aggression.
  • France had the highest proportion associated with feeling restless.

What comes first the drink or the good mood?

When respondents participated in lively activities while drinking, such as dancing, it also affected emotions.

And this finding makes sense.

In my own experience, I feel more “spirited” when I have one or two drinks at a lively social event. Mind you, I feel similarly “spirited” at social events in general — even before drinking, or even when not drinking at all. So, in my view, the social circumstances contribute to the positive feelings.

The amount of alcohol consumed also seems to affect emotions. For example, heavier drinkers reported negative emotions more often and were six times more likely to report feelings of aggression. And drinkers with alcohol dependency were five times more likely to report feeling energized.

These results demonstrate that heavy drinking and alcohol dependency leads to a tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol. And it suggests that those dependent on alcohol use it as a coping mechanism, rather than as a pleasurable experience.

Bottom line?

Stick with moderate drinking. You’ll feel more positive emotions and reap the health benefits over the long term.

Of course, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “low balls” how they categorize “heavy” and “excessive” drinking. They no longer consider anything beyond the one or two drinks per day “moderate.” But the science shows up to three drinks per day for men and two drinks per day for women still confers benefits, so why does the NIH continue to ignore the science?

Even the NIH’s own data tells a different story about what really is moderate and beneficial to your health. But trying to make moderate look heavy or excessive is all part of their politically correct prohibitionist agenda to exert more control, extract more taxes, and restrict more rights from average citizens.

Frank Sinatra, who was known for his “extracurricular merriment,” used to tell a joke during his concerts in Las Vegas (appropriately enough): “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”

And now the science shows there’s truth to that. So — cheers to feeling more energetic, sexier, and more confident well into your golden years!




“Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type? An international cross-sectional survey of emotions associated with alcohol consumption and influence on drink choice in different settings,” British Medical Journal( 2017