A new study suggests while alcohol consumption provides us with happiness that lasts only for a short period of time, it does not offer long-term well-being and life satisfaction.
Findings doesn’t surprise the researchers because according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol use is responsible for 88,000 deaths each year in the U.S., making it the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the country.
Study leader Dr. Ben Bamburg Geiger from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, and his colleagues wanted to find out if a drink or two really makes us happy, since many of us enjoy a drink after a hard day’s work.
The team analyzed data from the British Cohort 1970 Study (BCS70), alongside data gathered from a smartphone application.
The cohort study involved 17,000 babies born in a single week in 1970, who were regularly assessed between the ages of 30-42.
The alcohol consumption of participants was assessed using the question: “In the last 7 days, that is not counting today but starting from last [day], how much [drink] have you had?”
The question was adjusted to account for beer, wine, spirits, fortified wines, and alcopops.
To monitor subjects’ life satisfaction, a questionnaire was given to them which asked them to rate how satisfied they are with their life so far on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being “completely dissatisfied.”
Researchers analyzed data gathered from an iPhone app called “Mappiness for the smartphone-based evaluation.”
The app “beeps” anonymous users randomly twice a day – between the hours of 8 am and 10 pm – and asks them how happy they are in that exact moment, as well as who they are with and what they are doing; drinking alcohol is one of the options available for selection.
Responses of more than 31,000 users from the U.K. between 2010 and 2013 were assessed.
The cohort data analysis showed there was “no significant relationship” between changing drinking levels over time and life satisfaction.
Among people who developed drinking problems, however, the team identified a reduction in life satisfaction.
The smartphone-based analysis showed that people who consume alcohol are largely happier “in the moment,” but their happiness fades over time.
The team says both analyses accounted for participant illness and other factors that may influence the connection between alcohol and happiness.
The authors say:
“Simple accounts of the well-being impacts of alcohol policies are therefore likely to be misleading. Policymakers must consider the complexity of different policy impacts on different conceptions of ‘well-being,’ over different time periods, and among different types of drinkers.”