Alcohol types

Different Types of Alcohol Trigger Specific Emotions

Vodka, gin, whiskey and other spirits are more likely to increase aggression than other alcoholic beverages. Moreover, other types of alcohol arouse other specific emotions, according to a large international survey.

The new findings highlight “the complex relationships” between alcoholic beverage choices and emotions, note the authors, led by Kathryn Ashton, senior researcher in public health, policy, research and international development, Public Health Wales NHS Trust, Cardiff, UK.

Understanding the relationship between types of alcohol and the emotions and behaviors these drinks elicit can improve public health messaging and prevent alcohol consumption from escalating to addictive levels, they said.

The study was published online November 21 in BMJ open.

Spirits and Aggression

The researchers accessed the Global Drug Survey (GDS), the largest such survey in the world that uses encrypted information and is delivered in 11 languages. The annual self-reported online survey probes alcohol and drug use among adults over the age of 16.

The current study, which included data on 29,836 respondents aged 18 to 34 from the 2016 GDS, focused on alcohol consumption. Respondents were asked to indicate the type of alcoholic beverages they consume and the emotions they associate with each type of alcohol.

Positive emotions (energized, relaxed, sexy, and confident) and negative emotions (tired, aggressive, sick, agitated, and tearful) were included. All respondents in the sample had drunk all types of alcohol included in the analysis (spirits, red wine, white wine, beer) in the past 12 months.

The researchers also collected information on the types of alcohol most likely to be consumed at home. They calculated drinking levels using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT).

Survey results showed that emotions differed significantly between demographic groups and that these relationships held after controlling for confounding sociodemographic factors and level of alcohol dependence.

The analysis showed that spirits were more likely than beer, red wine or white wine to elicit the most positive emotions. More than half of respondents associated alcohol with energy (58.4%) and confidence (59.1%), and 42.4% said alcohol made them sexy.

But spirits were also more likely than any other type of beverage to elicit certain negative feelings. For example, 47.8% of respondents associated spirits with feeling bad.

Importantly, almost a third of respondents (29.8%) reported a relationship between alcoholism and aggression, which was significantly higher than other beverage categories (P

Respondents were more likely to report feeling relaxed (52.8%) when drinking red wine, although nearly half also reported feeling relaxed when drinking beer. Of all the types of alcohol, red wine was the most likely to make people tired (60.1%).

Dependent drinkers (AUDIT ≥ 20) were almost five times more likely to feel energized than low-risk drinkers (AUDIT 0–7) (odds ratio adjusted [AOR], 4.73; 95% confidence interval [CI]4.07 – 5.50; P

However, heavy drinkers also reported negative emotions more often. They were more than six times more likely to report feelings of aggression (RCA, 6.41; 95% CI, 5.79, 7.09; P

Drinking more alcohol during a session may increase the impact on emotions, the authors noted.

Heavy drinkers were less likely to report feelings of fatigue. This, the authors said, is “consistent with existing evidence on binge drinking and alcohol dependence, including the development of tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol.”

The results also showed that people who are dependent on alcohol more frequently associate emotions with alcohol, whether they drink at home or outside.

Differences by country

The findings suggest that individuals inadvertently select beverages known to elicit negative emotions because they crave the positive emotions that accompany them, and support other research showing that people who are dependent on alcohol use it as a mechanism coping rather than drinking for pleasure, the authors said.

“This highlights a potential emotional gap that individuals may seek to fill by drinking alcohol. positive emotions associated with alcohol consumption without highlighting the negatives that go alongside them.”

A greater proportion of those with low education reported both positive and negative emotions when drinking alcohol compared to those who had completed high school.

Women more frequently reported all emotions except aggression. Younger respondents (aged 18-24) more frequently reported all emotions except aggression and fatigue.

Looking at individual countries, the highest association with feeling energized, relaxed, and sexy was found in the South American sample from Colombia and Brazil. For negative emotions, the country sample with the strongest association with aggression was Norway, and for feeling restless, France.

However, the authors cautioned that the sample sizes for these categories were small. The survey, they said, “should not be considered representative of any country or region”.

Because different types of alcohol may be perceived or used in different ways, harm prevention policies may benefit from different treatment of beverage types. This is especially true when it comes to spirits and their significant association with aggression, the authors said.

As the sample was self-selected, there may be an overrepresentation of people who are more likely to drink alcohol. The sample may also be biased towards those with internet access.

The authors also pointed out that the emotions associated with alcohol may have been affected by factors such as mood before drinking, and that the amount and rate of alcohol consumption was unknown. Additionally, respondents may have engaged in other activities while consuming specific beverages, for example dancing, which may have affected emotions.

Further research is needed to examine the reasons for specific beverage choices in different contexts, pre-drinking mood, volume of alcohol, and the impact of alcohol advertising on drinkers’ perceived mood, conclude writers.

The authors reported no relevant financial relationships.

BMJ open. Published online November 21, 2017. Full article

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