Drinking Alcohol Can Make You Joyous…for a Moment: Study

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Turns out that there aren’t too many studies on alcohol and its effect on one’s wellbeing, so policymakers, have in effect, took the economist assumption that people act in their best interests—even when they are drunk.

A new study—headed by researchers at The School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and published in Social Science & Medicine—looks at the link between drinking alcohol and the wellbeing within an individual.  The study titled “Can alcohol make you happy? A subjective wellbeing approach,” combines results from a traditional cohort study and data from a smartphone app. Researchers discovered the following:

  • Study 1 results (cohort study, sample size of 29,145 observations from 10,107 people): Researchers looked at changes in life satisfaction and previous-week alcohol drinking gathered from a cohort of British residents born in 1970 (responses gathered at ages 30, 34 and 42). They discovered no connection between drinking alcohol and happiness over a period of time (except when alcohol became a problem, i.e. alcohol addiction, it corresponded with reduced feelings of happiness and wellbeing).
  • Study 2 results (iPhone data): For this portion of the study, researchers looked at moment-to-moment changes in happiness and drinking alcohol (2,049,120 observations from 31,302 participants). People are (shocker) happier at the moment of drinking—this according to results from iPhone data set in England from 2010-2013.

Researchers concluded that although people were happier at the moment of drinking, drinking levels across several years isn’t linked with changing life satisfaction. Alcohol problems, however, were associated with lower life satisfaction. Policymakers should therefore look at different conceptions of happiness and wellbeing, over various time periods.

Physiological Effects of Alcohol

The U.S. Department of Justice released a report overview for drug court practitioners about the effects of using alcohol and other drugs. They state that repeatedly consuming alcohol into the human neurological system triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine, or serotonin in the pleasure sections of the brain.

This in turn disrupts the brain’s capability to naturally replenish its chemical reservoirs, so a person can eventually become unable to feel pleasure from “normal means” and without drinking. This can lead to increased feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration and craving more alcohol/stimulants.

Your best option? Stick within the recommended alcohol limit. The CDC suggests up to one drink per day for women and two for men.


Geiger, B. B., “Can alcohol make you happy? A subjective wellbeing approach,” Social Science & Medicine, 2016 May;156:184-91. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.034. Epub 2016 Mar 26.

Marr, J. N., “The Interrelationship Between the Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs: Overview for Drug Court Practitioners,” National Criminal Justice Reference Service web site, 1999; https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/178940.pdf, last accessed  May 5, 2016.

“Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm; last accessed May 5, 2016.