Does Alcohol Type Affect Your Mood?

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As the parties and celebrations ramp up this holiday season, you may want to be careful about what you’re drinking. A new study shows that the type of alcoholic drink you prefer can have a wide-ranging effect on your mood.

Drinking liquor or mixed drinks is most often tied to feelings of aggression, says the study, which surveyed nearly 30,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 from more than 20 countries.

Credit: Alex Harries/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

If you’re seeking to take it easy, then you may want to uncork a bottle of red wine or have a pint of beer – those types of alcoholic drinks had the highest association with feelings of relaxation, according to the study. About 53 percent of respondents said red wine elicited feelings of relaxation, with 50 percent of beer drinkers saying the same thing.

Liquor, on the other hand, evoked feelings of relaxation in only 20 percent of drinkers. The contrast between drinking liquor and wine splits even further. About 30 percent of those who consume spirits report aggressive feelings – compared to just 2.5 percent of those imbibing red wine.

“For centuries, the history of rum, gin, vodka and other spirits has been laced with violence. This global study suggests even today consuming spirits is more likely to result in feelings of aggression than other drinks,” said study author Mark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research and International Development with the Public Health Wales NHS Trust.

Related: Drinking Alcohol May Boost Foreign Language Speaking Skills

For the large-scale study, the researchers assessed a range of emotions, including feeling “energized, relaxed, sexy, confident and tired, aggressive, ill, restless and tearful.”

While consumers of liquor reported the highest degrees of negative feelings, they also reported more positive feelings among some emotions – specifically, nearly 60 percent of liquor drinkers reported enhanced energy and confidence, and more than two in five (43 percent) associated with feeling sexy.

“People routinely use alcohol in order to alter their moods, but this study suggests different drink choices may result in different emotional outcomes,” said lead author Kath Ashton. “Understanding the relationships between different drinks and their emotional consequences may provide important insights into the prevention of alcohol-related harms.”

Another Round of Results

The study authors highlight the intent behind drinking in an effort to further shed light on their survey findings.

“Historically, alcohol’s perceived capacity to temporarily reduce negative emotions (and consequently increase pleasure and relaxation) has been regarded as the primary reason for consumption,” they write in The BMJ.

Prior studies have confirmed this reasoning, at least anecdotally. “Individuals across the USA, Canada and Sweden have previously reported associating generally positive emotions with alcohol consumption, emphasizing feelings of relaxation and reporting alcohol as an antidote to fatigue and contributing to increasing the values of sociability,” add the authors.

Related: Heavy Alcohol Use Affects Young Men and Women’s Brains Differently

However, the researchers caution that few, if any, studies have focused on the type of alcohol a person consumes and the resulting emotional response. While the prior studies have trumpeted positive feelings, they add that “consumption has also been associated with triggering negative emotions, such as aggression and depression and can lead to out-of-character actions being undertaken by the drinker and exacerbate premorbid personality traits.”

The new study also shows that women were more likely than men to associate with the list of emotions – all except aggression. Further, heavy drinkers tended to exhibit stronger feelings of aggression, and they also reported more feelings of energy after consuming alcohol.

Ultimately, the pendulum appears to swing the widest when consuming liquor drinks, which were more likely to “elicit the majority of positive emotions when consumed,” write the authors.

“However, they were also more likely to be associated with negative emotions,” they add.

Richard Scott

Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.