Oxford University researchers now believe that having a local pub is linked with improved wellbeing due to social engagement.
Conversation among small groups is the key, though alcohol’s role in triggering the endorphin system is also important, according to their new study, titled Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption.
The study combined data from three separate studies:
– A structured national survey conducted by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale). It asked respondents’ about their drinking behaviour, their social networks and their wellbeing, using multiple-choice Likert-type responses.
– A questionnaire-based study of the clientele across six pubs – four in the community and two in large city centre bars. They surveyed 95 people and reimbursed them with £5 for their time.
– An observational study of conversational behaviour in pubs. These conversations were observed in seven different venues: five city centre pubs and two local community pubs. The subjects were unaware that they were being observed.
Professor Robin Dunbar from Oxford University’s experimental psychology department, said: “This study showed that frequenting a local pub can directly affect peoples’ social network size and how engaged they are with their local community, which in turn can affect how satisfied they feel in life.”
“Our social networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness.”
“While pubs traditionally have a role as a place for community socialising, alcohol’s role appears to be in triggering the endorphin system, which promotes social bonding.”
The survey data suggest that respondents who visit their local watering hole on a regular basis are more socially engaged, feel more contented in their lives, and are more likely to trust other members of their community. On some, but not all of our social measures, those who drink casually were more socially engaged than those who didn’t drink at all, suggesting that there are independent effects due to being a drinker and having a regular drinking venue.
The study suggests that social interaction and moderate drinking can promote a happier life, but as always, we encourage drinking in moderation as the study reinforces.