If it’s cold and dark where you live, there’s a good chance it influences how much you drink. That’s the upshot of recent research into climate and alcohol consumption, which found that drinking rises as sunlight dwindles and the temperature drops.
In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have established a link between weather and drinking. Using large, international data sets involving health and weather, they found a negative correlation between average temperatures, hours of sunlight and alcohol intake.
Cold weather also is associated with more cases of binge drinking and alcoholic liver disease, the researchers found. The higher drinking and liver disease rates in cold climates held true in the United States and internationally.
To establish their findings, researchers had to control for myriad factors that can influence drinking habits, such as religion. Muslim-majority countries were excluded because their rules about alcohol use could have skewed the results.
Untangling all of the factors that can alter drinking habits was a challenge, the researchers noted. Alcohol increases feelings of warmth by pushing warm blood to the skin. That, in turn, might explain why drinking is more prevalent in colder regions than in warmer ones. Drinking is also linked to depression, which can worsen when temperatures drop and sunlight is scarce.
The findings do more than just settle a long-standing question about weather’s effect on drinking habits. Researchers said the information can be used to direct resources to areas where alcoholism and alcoholic liver disease are more likely to be problematic.