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6 Psychological Reasons Why You Should Be Drinking Alcohol

If you ever needed justification for going out to drink with friends or an explanation of why your love for alcohol is more genuine than your friends think, you have come to the right place.

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Introduction

While you may have experienced some negative effects of consuming too many drinks, read a news article about a shocking drinking-related incident, or cannot seem to recall anything about drinking, there are many benefits of drinking alcohol. In fact, there are various studies which highlight positive physiological effects such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and prevention from the common cold. Alongside these perks here is a list of six psychological reasons, backed up by scientific studies, why moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial.

1. Increases Sociability

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You may have seen some of your quieter friends turn into quite outgoing characters by the end of a party, and wondered if alcohol played a role in this transformation. Chances are you are probably right, as Stanton Peele and Archie Brodsky from the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School found that moderate drinkers had elevated sociability and social participation. Their meta-analysis also points out how those who abstain from drinking have lower scores on sociability, are more submissive, and are less self-confident. They also cited another study indicating the top reason why people drink is to be sociable as well as how the mood-enhancing effects of alcohol are amplified in group settings.

2. Improves Long Term Cognitive Performance

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While there are various studies indicating primarily negative effects on immediate cognitive tasks and motor skills, research has shifted attention to the long-term effects of drinking. The same researchers as above, whose work was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, also found how people who had 1-2 drinks a day had superior cognitive skills than those who abstained from drinking, especially for men aged 21 and women aged 24. They also highlight other studies showing higher cognitive functioning for American seniors who have 1 drink a week, regardless of age, sex, education, income, and health status.

3. Increases Frequency of Affective Expressions

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If you ever needed help laughing or smiling, going out and getting a drink may be your solution. Geoff Lowe, a researcher from the UK at the University of Hull, conducted three different studies in which intoxicated participants showed positive expressions more frequently than the sober control groups. Two highlighted higher rates of laughter while watching a movie and higher scale scores measuring frequency of laughter and humor in daily life. His other study also reported a higher frequency of smiling in daily life.

4. Reduces Stress

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Many people have used alcohol as a way to ease their stress levels, or rather to escape from harsh realities. But does drinking have a direct impact on reducing stress? In a study published by the journal Alcohol Research & Health, Dr. Sayette emphasized the roles of individual differences and situational factors in regards to stress reduction. The former suggests that those who experience difficulty in controlling their behaviour, are highly self-conscious, and have a family history of alcoholism, are more likely to have alcohol lessen their reactions to stress. The right environment to optimally reduce stress includes pleasant distractions, such as drinking with friends, with the right time being before learning about something stressful.

5. Decreases Likelihood of Cognitive Impairment

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In a recent study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment which looked at over 365,000 participants since 1977, moderate drinkers were 23% less likely to develop cognitive impairment or forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. The researchers from the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Loyola University Chicago also addressed how cognitive risk seemed to decrease regardless of age, education, sex, and most of the countries studied including the US, with wine providing an even more significant reduction than other types of alcohol.

6. Increases Problem Solving and Creativity

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While some poor decisions may be made after having one too many drinks, researchers at the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted an experiment to test creative processes while moderately intoxicated. Their study, which is featured in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, found that intoxication lead to improved performance on a common creative problem solving task in comparison to a sober control croup. Not only did the intoxicated group display higher attention rates, but they were also quicker to complete the tasks.

References

Jarosz, A. F., Colflesh, G. H., & Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 487-493. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.002

Lowe, G., Britton, R., Carpenter, E., Castle, H., Clayton, C., Hulme, C., Mara, D., Ormerod, J. (1997). Social drinking and laughter. Psychological Reports, 81, 684.

Lowe, G., Taylor, S.B. (1997). Effects of alcohol on responsive laughter and amusement. Psychological Reports 80, 1149–1150.

Lowe, G., Taylor, S.B., (1993). Relationship between laughter and weekly alcohol consumption. Psychological Reports, 72, 1210.

Neafsey, E. J., & Collins, M. A. (2011). Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 7465-484. doi:10.2147/NDT.S23159

Peele, S., & Brodsky, A. (2000). Exploring psychological benefits associated with moderate alcohol use: A necessary corrective to assessments of drinking outcomes? Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 60, 221-247.

Sayette, M. (1999). Does drinking reduce stress? Alcohol Research & Health, 23, 250-255.

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