No, The Type of Alcohol You Drink Doesn’t Determine Your Mood

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It’s the holidays and that means one thing: drinking. Drinking in the morning, drinking in the evening, drinking at suppertime.

Okay, that’s not exactly fair. The holidays really mean “family,” and family means drinking. But still, the end result is the same. So it is perfect timing that the Guardian announces “Type of alcohol determines whether you become merry or maudlin – study.”

Since I’m discussing this here and I mention the mainstream media outlet’s reporting on it before I discuss the actual study, you have probably already guessed that that headline is stupid bullshit. No, this study did not in any way suggest that the type of alcohol you consume determines whether you become happy or sad. That might be accomplished by observing people in a controlled environment drinking various types of alcohol and then having them report their feelings before and while they are inebriated. This study, though, was just a survey. The survey asked people to report on what they had to drink in the previous year and how it made them feel. That’s it!

When someone reports that they had red wine and they were relaxed, it could mean that they were anxious and the wine relaxed them, or it could mean that they were in a relaxed mood and chose red wine because of that. Or, they could have been an anxious mess all night and are misremembering feeling relaxed. And if it is the former, in which they were relaxed by the red wine, it could mean that there’s something about red wine that’s more relaxing than, say, tequila, or it could mean that people in certain cultures associate red wine with a cozy night in while associating tequila with a wild night out, so they are influenced by that in what they choose to drink and how they react to that drink.

The survey itself even makes that clear since people reported being more relaxed when drinking at home and more confident and sexy when drinking outside the home.

Different kinds of alcohol aren’t actually all that different from one another. They might be more sugary, or they might have more alcohol by volume, and these things can change how we react to them. If something makes you drunk more quickly you may associate it with bad hangovers or with wild behavior, but at the end of the day you’re just consuming ethanol in various quantities, and you should be aware of how strong your drink is and how much water you’re consuming alongside it if you want to have a less regrettable night and a more pleasant morning.

Other than that, just drink what tastes good and what you’re in the mood for in the moment. Don’t believe any nonsense about which alcohol will make you happy or sad — all of it is, ultimately, a depressant. If you want to get happy, stick with cocaine.

Just kidding! Hugs not drugs, kids.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Well, alcohol is just alcohol, no matter what’s in the glass with it. But aren’t some drinks more laden with toxic side chemicals? Some folks get migraines from red wine, and some drinks have a strong association with worse hangovers. Not that I’ve done any surveying of a controlled population.

    Supposedly, getting to the black out stage usually requires rapid consumption: getting drunk enough for short-term memory to pack it in without passing out or throwing up.

    Big Fun.

  2. I usually drink beer, mostly because I like it, but also to stay hydrated. When a waiter offers me water, my usual reply is “No thanks. Beer is about 6% alcohol, so it’s 94% water. That’s all I need!”

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