Research by Oxford University has answered the question behind why people that attend their local pub are generally happier and healthier than those that don’t.
The published findings cite benefits to both health and social bonding of (modest) alcohol consumption in the community pub, finding that social drinkers enjoy more friends on whom they can depend for support, and are generally more trusting of their community.
While drinkers and non-drinkers experienced benefit, alcohol’s role is explained as triggering the endorphin system, promoting social bonding. Social networking is seen as the greatest buffer against mental and physical illness.
“Like other complex bonding systems, such as dancing, singing and storytelling, it has often been adopted by large social communities as a ritual associated with bonding,” says Oxford University lead researcher, Professor Robin Dunbar.
The study suggests this may be the true explanation behind the near-universal adoption of alcohol around the world, and not simply its pleasure-lubricating qualities.
“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.”
The research was conducted via three separate relevant investigations: a study of pub-goers, analysis of conversational behaviour in pubs, and a national survey by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale).
Finding proof on what the bulk of pub-goers already knew, it also found that people who don’t have a local pub had significantly smaller social networks and were less trusting of their neighbours.
Pubs in the UK have been in turmoil in recent years, closing at the rate of around 20 per week. However, there is still approximately 1 pub for every 1,400 people. By comparison, Australia has around 1 pub for every 4,400 people.