The news surrounding alcohol use is usually filled with doom and gloom. From drunk driving to alcohol abuse to underage drinking, there's rarely anything good to report about drinking alcohol. So if drinking is so horrible, why do people continue to do it?
Because, it's fun, of course. And a new British survey has figured out exactly how much happiness it adds to our lives.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics, surveyed 31,000 participants who voluntarily used an app called Mappiness to rate their happiness at random times throughout the day. On a scale of 1 to 100, users reported their level of happiness along with whom they were with — friends, family, coworkers or by themselves — and what they were doing, including things like working, commuting, socializing or drinking.
After collecting 2 million responses over a two-year period, researchers looked through the data to determine if users reported higher rates of happiness when they were drinking. And they sure did. In fact, happiness levels increased by more than 10 points whenever alcohol was involved, reports The Washington Post.
But, wait a minute. Maybe these folks just happened to be drinking alcohol while doing something else that truly made them happier, like socializing with friends or watching sports. The researchers thought of this possibility, too. They controlled for things like the users' activities, whom they were with, where they were, and the time of day. This time, the happiness boost was smaller, but at four points it was still significant.
Men and women seemed to enjoy the happiness effect of alcohol equally, and it was not affected by the time of day or whether the participants were on their own or with family, friends or coworkers. What did matter was what the users were doing while they were drinking. Researchers noted a larger happiness spike when the participants were drinking while doing something else that was less enjoyable — like commuting (hopefully on public transit!) or waiting in line. The happiness effect was less noticeable when they were doing something that they might already consider enjoyable, like hanging out with friends.
As with any of the new line of app-based social studies, it's important to point out that the participants in this study may not be representative of the entire population. They are smartphone users who voluntarily offered to report their happiness throughout the day. Still, the researchers think the sheer magnitude of responses that they collated helped to strengthen their findings. They are also hoping that their study will add to the dialogue about alcohol use and health. As with any abstinence debate, it's not enough to tell people not to do it if you don't understand why they do it in the first place.
Oh, and one more thing: While the researchers did find that alcohol increased a person's immediate happiness, they also noted that the effect was short-lived. Drinking did not improve a user's long-term satisfaction levels.
So go ahead and have a drink. It may help you relax and enjoy your evening. But don't expect to find answers to any of life's problems at the bottom of your glass.