Do you feel like pouring yourself a glass of rum or possibly even making up a cocktail when the weather turns cold? You seemingly aren’t the only one. Due to a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, Division of Gastroenterology that was published online in Hepatology, it was found that people who live in colder climates tend to consume more alcohol than people who live in warm weather.
The research, published online in the journal Hepatology recently found that as temperatures sink and summer seems like miles away, alcohol consumption tends to rise in individuals. Additionally, it appears that colder climates were also linked to more episodes of binge drinking and higher prevalence of alcoholic liver disease. In the U.S. alone, more than a quarter of people aged 18 or older reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month in 2015, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Annually, approximately 88,000 Americans pass away from alcohol-related issues, marking alcohol as the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
“Risk of alcoholic cirrhosis is determined by genetic and environmental factors. Although it is generally accepted that colder weather predisposes to alcohol misuse, no studies have investigated its impact on alcohol intake and alcoholic cirrhosis”, the study stated. But then, it concluded saying, “These results suggest that colder climates may play a causal role on alcohol‐attributable fraction AAF mediated by alcohol consumption”.
“It’s something that everyone has assumed for decades, but no one has scientifically demonstrated it.” said study author Dr. Ramon Bataller in a statement. “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 new study used data sets that covered around 193 countries, 50 U.S. states, and 3,144 U.S. counties, sourced from the World Health Organisation and the World Meteorological Organisation, as well as a number of other groups.
During the study, a significant negative correlation was found linked between environmental variables, like average temperature and sunlight hours, and how much alcohol individuals may consume. Alcohol consumption was measured through factors including total alcohol intake per capita and the percent of the population that indulges in drinking alcohol. Climate was also associated with higher levels of alcoholic liver disease in populations, which remained true across countries in the world, as well as when comparing counties within the U.S.
However, according to the study, the environment is not the only factor at play here, as multiple variables like religion and socioeconomic status can also play a role in how much individuals may or may not in fact drink. The study results are considered correlations, and not causations, and is to be noted that the research was possible due to it being partially funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Hoping it would help in shaping better policies and guidelines in colder places, the professor behind the study also noted that, “Knowing that colder places have more drink-related problems could be helpful to the efforts in these areas to determine better policies. If you have a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse, maybe you should avoid super cold areas.”
Of course, if you do find yourself drinking more alcohol than you typically would over the winter, the University of Michigan Depression Centre recommends that you speak to a mental health counsellor or to try out a new exercise routine to break up the mood-lowering effects of winter or seasonal affective disorder. For those times where you are stuck indoors and aren’t feeling great, they also recommend taking advantage of what sunlight you may be getting by keeping your blinds open and enjoying the warmth.