Going to the pub is good for you, say Oxford researchers

New study claims evenings spent at a ‘local’ pub improve wellbeing and social interaction

New research from Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology shows possible links between moderate alcohol consumption with friends at a local pub, and improved wellbeing.

The study focussed on connections between drinking and social cohesion, looking specifically at the frequency of alcohol consumption and the location.

It emerged that having a “local” pub promoted trust, social engagement, and thus contentment. Those without a “local”, and comparatively smaller social networks, were less engaged and trusting of their local communities.

Professor Robin Dunbar, of the University’s Experimental Psychology department, said: “This study showed that frequenting a local pub can directly affect people’s social network size and how engaged they are with their local community, which in turn can affect how satisfied they feel in life.

“Our social networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness. While pubs traditionally have a role as a place for community socialising, alcohol’s role appears to be in triggering the endorphin system, which promotes social bonding.

“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.”

Dunbar and other researchers drew on three separate studies: a questionnaire, observation, and a national survey.

The researchers discovered that those with a local pub socialised in smaller groups facilitating conversations as a group, whereas city-centre bars tended to have larger groups, and thus there was less whole-group engagement.

The national survey was undertaken by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), a not-for-profit volunteer-led organisation of 185,000 members which campaigns for thriving pubs and real ale across every community.

CAMRA’s National Chairman, Colin Valentine, said: “Pubs play a unique role in offering a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends in a responsible, supervised community setting.

“For this reason, we all need to do what we can to ensure that everyone has a ‘local’ near to where they live or work—the first step to which is to strengthen planning protection for pubs to stem the 21 pubs closing across this country each week.”