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Surprise! Beer Makes You Happier, Friendlier

Study found this was especially true for women and the socially inhibited

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Raise a glass of your favorite brew and toast the Swiss researchers who offer scientific proof for what you surely suspected and probably hoped.

Drinking beer does make you friendlier, happier, less inhibited -- maybe even sexier, they report.

But that's not all.

"We found that drinking a glass of beer helps people see happy faces faster, and enhances concern for positive emotional situations," said lead researcher Matthias Liechti, head of psychopharmacology research at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland.

In other words, drinking beer might make you more social and more empathetic.

Researchers came to these not-so-sobering conclusions after studying 30 men and 30 women. Half were randomly assigned to drink enough beer to raise their blood alcohol level to about 0.4 grams per liter. (The amount was proportional to their body size.) The others quaffed a nonalcoholic brew.

Before and after, both groups performed various tasks, including facial recognition as well as tests of their empathy and sexual arousal. Both groups then switched roles and repeated the tests.

The upshot: The researchers found that people were more eager to socialize after a drink or two. This was especially true for women and for volunteers who had been more inhibited socially.

Drinking also made it easier for some people, particularly women, to look at sexually explicit images. But it didn't make them any more turned on, the study found.

The findings were published Sept. 19 in the journal Psychopharmacology. They were also to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) on Monday in Vienna, Austria.

"This is an interesting study confirming conventional wisdom that alcohol is a social lubricant and that moderate use of alcohol makes people happier, more social and less inhibited when it comes to sexual engagement," said Dr. Wim van den Brink, former head of the ECNP Scientific Program Committee.

Though he was not involved in the study, van den Brink offered several theories for differences between men and women. They could stem from differences in blood alcohol levels after the same amount of beer; differences in tolerance due to previous alcohol use; or socio-cultural factors, he said.

"It should also be recognized that different effects of alcohol can be seen according to whether your blood alcohol is increasing or decreasing, and of course how much alcohol you have taken," he said in an ECNP news release.

But before you start chugging away, van den Brink pointed out that people's emotions may not reflect their actual behavior while under alcohol's influence. As Shakespeare noted in Macbeth, "it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides more information on alcohol's effects on the body.

SOURCE: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, news release, Sept. 19, 2016

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