Different alcoholic drinks bring out different emotions

24 November 2017


Heavy drinkers are more likely to choose strongly alcoholic drinks associated with negative emotions, such as aggressiveness, a survey exploring the links between alcohol and emotion revealed this week.

Every year, more than 100,000 people respond to the Global Drug Survey, which aims to get to the heart of how, where, when, why and what drugs are being taken worldwide.

This year, the study found some interesting results about alcohol and whether different kinds of drinks produce different emotional outcomes. It’s a common myth that gin makes you teary and whiskey causes fights, but what do the results of the survey have to say?

“Spirits had much stronger associations with different emotions like feeling confident or feeling sexy or having more energy. But at the same time, we were also getting much more of the negative emotions out of that group of drinks such as feeling ill, feeling restless and, perhaps most worrying of all, high levels of feeling aggressive,” said Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy Research and International Development at Public Health Wales, who co-authored the study.

While there is a correlation between emotional outcome and the type of alcohol consumed, the researchers emphasise that there are many other factors involved.

“This study isn’t about causation. We’re quite clear that it could be the effects of, for instance, the levels of alcohol in say, spirits. It could equally be that people may be drinking those spirits in a particular way – drinking them to get drunk, drinking them a lot faster and drinking a lot more. And it could be the setting – we know for instance red wine is often drunk more with food and that may change things.”

The study, published in BMJ Open, also observed that heavy drinkers were more likely to choose drinks associated with negative emotions, such as aggressiveness, whether drinking while out or at home. With about 40% of violence in England and Wales being related to alcohol, these results show the importance of understanding drinking patterns and behaviour on a personal level.

“We found that people who are drinking more are saying they get far greater levels of different emotions out of drinking. But at the same time they’re reporting much higher levels of those negative emotions as well.  And the reality is there, we’ve got to be careful and warn people of a spiral whereby people may actually be compensating or looking for something from alcohol which actually, because they’re drinking more, is aggravating the problem at the same time”.

With Alcohol Concern estimating a yearly cost of £3.5billion to the NHS from alcohol harm, understanding the emotional connection to drinking is key in addressing alcohol mis-use.

"In the UK, a litre of off-licence spirits can easily be bought for £15 or less, making a double shot only 75 pence. Such prices can encourage consumption at levels harmful to the health of the drinker and through violence and injuries also represent a risk to the people around them."


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