Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption
Dunbar RIM., Launay J., Wlodarski R., Robertson C., Pearce E., Carney J., MacCarron P.
© 2016, The Author(s). Alcohol use has a long and ubiquitous history. Despite considerable research on the misuse of alcohol, no one has ever asked why it might have become universally adopted, although the conventional view assumes that its only benefit is hedonic. In contrast, we suggest that alcohol consumption was adopted because it has social benefits that relate both to health and social bonding. We combine data from a national survey with data from more detailed behavioural and observational studies to show that social drinkers have more friends on whom they can depend for emotional and other support, and feel more engaged with, and trusting of, their local community. Alcohol is known to trigger the endorphin system, and the social consumption of alcohol may thus have the same effect as the many other social activities such as laughter, singing and dancing that we use as a means of servicing and reinforcing social bonds.