- A new study has found that people are more likely to drink more alcohol in countries with colder climates and fewer hours of sunlight than in sunnier, warmer climates.
- The study was the first of its kind and analysed data from across the world.
- Researchers are now calling on tighter restrictions on alcohol advertisements during the winter.
- However, other academics are sceptical of the study’s findings, claiming that further research has found the opposite situation within Europe.
When holidaying somewhere exotic, it’s not uncommon to find oneself cooling down with a refreshing cocktail or a crisp beer more often than one would at home.
With this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking hotter weather would lead people to drink more alcohol – but according to a new study, this is not the case.
In fact, living in a cold climate with little daylight could be making you drink more.
According to the study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology, there is a link between average temperature, hours of sunlight, and alcohol consumption.
The findings suggest that colder climates “may play a causal role” on how much people drink.
Senior author Ramon Bataller, associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre, said: “This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis.”
The researchers analysed data from 193 countries and found that as temperature and sunlight hours drop, alcohol consumption increases.
They used data from the World Health Organisation, the World Meteorological Organisation, and other large, public data sets and discovered a negative correlation between temperature and sunlight hours, and alcohol consumption (measured as total alcohol intake per capita, proportion of the population that drinks alcohol, and the levels of binge drinking.)
The study also found a link between climate and the incidence of alcoholic liver disease.
Alcohol is a vasodilator, which means that it boosts the flow of warm blood to the skin, increasing feelings of warmth.
Higher alcohol consumption is also linked to depression, which tends to be more common during winter when there are fewer hours of daylight.
However, lead author Meritxell Ventura-Cots, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center,added that it’s important to highlight “the many confounding factors.”
“We tried to control for as many as we could. For instance, we tried to control for religion and how that influences alcohol habits.”
Other academics are sceptical of the study’s findings, claiming that further research has found that within Europe, it is countries like the UK, Germany, Ireland, and Poland that have the highest rates of alcohol consumption, rather than colder, darker countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
“Basically, we have found within Europe that this correlation that has been found in another study globally, plays no role,” Prof Jurgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health told the BBC.
However, Dr Peter McCann, a medical adviser to Castle Craig Hospital (a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in the Scottish Borders) who contributed to the report, and is now calling for tighter restrictions on alcohol advertisements during the colder months.
“We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume,” he said.
“Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease – cirrhosis – which can ultimately end in liver failure and death.
“Stricter laws on alcohol pricing are surely justified when we consider the devastating combined effect of low sunlight and cheaper alcohol on consumption.
“Advertising laws should be addressed with restrictions during winter months strongly considered.”