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How do different types of alcoholic drinks affect emotions?

Yes, someone’s finally done a scientific study.

EVERYONE SEEMS TO have an opinion on how different types of drinks affect a person’s mood – so it was probably only a matter of time before someone decided to launch a large-scale scientific study to see if there was any discernable link between different beverages and drinkers’ moods and behaviours.

“Outside cultural myth and folklore, little attention has been paid to the immediate emotions associated with drinking different types of alcohol,” the authors of a study recently published in medical journal BMJ Open wrote. 

Potential differences in the emotional consequences (both positive and negative) of drinking different types of alcohol (for example, spirits vs beer) and how emotional expectations from experiences of different alcohol types influence drink choice remain relatively unexplored areas.

The authors set out to examine the emotions associated with drinking different types of alcohol and whether those feelings differed in particular social groups or in different settings.

The study, which was limited to people aged 18 to 34, was carried out via questionnaire in 21 different countries and almost 30,000 people took part.

So what did they find? 

Over half of all respondents associated drinking spirits with emotions of energy and confidence, while 42.4% reported that drinking spirits made them feel sexy.

Respondents were most likely to report feeling relaxed (52.8%) when drinking red wine, although almost half of respondents also reported feeling relaxed when drinking beer.

shutterstock_472042249 Source: Shutterstock/Joshua Resnick

Drinking spirits was more likely to draw out feelings of aggression, illness, restlessness and tearfulness than all other drink types and red wine was the most likely to make individuals feel tired.

For each individual drink type, positive emotions were more frequently reported by those with higher alcohol dependency scores. This was also true of negative emotions, with the exception of feeling tired when drinking spirits or white wine.

With the exception of feeling aggressive, women were significantly more likely than men to report each emotion as a result of drinking any type of alcohol.

Younger age groups (those aged 18 to 24) most frequently reported most emotion types when drinking alcohol. Exceptions to this were aggression and tiredness, where there was no significant association with age.

shutterstock_302695724 Source: Shutterstock/Ievgenii Meyer

A greater proportion of those with lower educational attainment reported both positive (energised, sexy or confident) and negative (aggressive, ill or tearful) emotions when drinking alcohol compared with those who had attended secondary school.

The authors noted in their conclusion that “feeling positive emotions may in part be related to the promotion of positive experiences by advertising and the media”.

However the case for experiencing negative emotions is less well founded “given that negative emotions are generally not promoted”.

Emotions experienced could also be related to when the alcohol is drunk, the levels of alcohol within each beverage type and the different compounds found in different drinks.

The results of the study, they said, could be used by public health bodies “to better understand alcohol consumption behaviour and to inform strategies and interventions to promote changes in consumption, particularly among heavier drinkers”.

Read: A Chinese man paid €8,500 for a glass of 139-year-old scotch that turned out to be fake >

Read: Debate Room: Are proposed restrictions on alcohol advertising going too far? >

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Daragh Brophy

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