A study has linked lower temperatures and less sunshine with increased boozing. Can it help us combat binge drinking?
The colder and darker the weather, the boozier we become, says a study published in the Journal of Hepatology. Data from more than 190 countries found a strong correlation between lower temperatures and fewer sunshine hours and higher alcohol consumption. With winter on its way and binge-drinking rates in Britain already among the highest in the world, can the research help combat the nation’s problems with drink?
“We can’t change the weather; we can’t all move to Spain, especially in a post-Brexit era,” wrote Dr Peter McCann, co-author of the study and a medical adviser to Castle Craig Hospital, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in the Scottish Borders. McCann pointed to solutions that have worked well in Nordic countries, such as Iceland, which he says has successfully reduced teenage drinking and substance abuse by increasing participation in sport and other organised activities, and restricting time spent outdoors in the evening.
In Sweden, alcohol is highly taxed and can only be bought in special government shops. But is targeting price fair? “Critics of pricing policy interventions argue that raising prices for everyone penalises those on low incomes,” says Dr Sadie Boniface from King’s College London.
Boniface adds that pricing was not taken into account by the Journal of Hepatology study, though it was among the many factors that had a role in alcohol consumption. “People’s diets may vary depending on the climate, and wider social norms and influences also determine alcohol consumption.”
Sarah Galvani, professor of adult social care at Manchester Metropolitan University, cautions against over-interpreting the research. “There’s a lot of reasons why people drink more. Drinking is primarily culturally determined and that comes from a range of influences,” she says. “It’s partly environment, partly family influence and it’s partly down to your own choices.” Something to bear in mind as the days get shorter and you reach for that bottle of red.