Binge Drinkers Move To Cold Climates To Indulge

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Given current standards of science journalism this is how the finding that people in cold climate binge drink more might be reported – that binge drinkers move to cold climates. The distinctions between correlation, cause and effect, not being something that the arts graduates who write our national newspapers have really caught up with. Fortunately, in this specific instance, it’s not that bad.

There is indeed a correlation between sunlight hours and binge drinking. A strong enough connection that we’d be entirely happy to ascribe some causality to it. And as one who has lived in one of those coldandonly3hoursofsunlightinwinter places I can understand why too. It’s not so much when it’s minus 30 oC outside before wind chill, it’s that you just spend months without seeing the Sun with that combination of cloud cover and daylight hours. You could actually feel everyone becoming more fractious as January turned into February and all waited for March when daylight hours notably improved. So, yes, binge boozing:

Alcohol consumption is higher in colder countries with less sunlight, a new study has found.

The research, carried out by the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre in the US, revealed people living in chillier climates were more likely to binge drink.

Ah, there’s the reporting bit again though. The distinct correlation is between binge and daylight hours, not consumption and temperature.

Research from the United States has established a link between average temperature and hours of sunlight and alcohol consumption.

Examining data from 193 countries, the group found evidence that climate contributed to a higher incidence of binge drinking and liver disease.

It’s not average temperature either.

New data presented at The International Liver Congress™ 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, suggests that colder and less sunny regions of the world have higher rates of alcoholic cirrhosis, a disease caused by excessive drinking which results in irreversible scarring of the liver. An international team of scientists analysing data from over 190 countries found that every increase in temperature of one degree Celsius was linked with a decrease in the alcohol-attributable fraction (AAF*) of cirrhosis of 0.3%. Heavy alcohol intake causes a perception of warmth, while fewer sunlight hours have been linked to depression which in turn, may lead to alcohol abuse. As a result, the researchers hypothesised that colder countries would have higher rates of alcohol consumption and therefore an increased burden of alcoholic cirrhosis.

It’s binge and daylight.

It would be interesting to be able to test this properly but sadly the positions of the varied bits of land mass don’t allow this. There’s no substantial population in the short daylight in winter areas of the South simply because there’s not much land that far South. Or, rather – as Antarctica is pretty large – habitable but short winter days as there is in the North.

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