People in Cold Places Drink More, Study Finds

“Alcohol is a vasodilator—meaning it increases the flow of warm blood to the skin. Booze quite literally makes you feel warmer."
A man holds a beer in the cold.
Photos via Pixabay and Pexels. 

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Canadians drink more than the global average. Well, it’s not just your drunk friends in your buddies garage huddled around the barrel fire discussing this, it’s also an interest of some scientists out there to find the correlation between cold weather and alcohol consumption.

“It’s something that everyone has assumed for decades, but no one has scientifically demonstrated it. Why do people in Russia drink so much? Why in Wisconsin? Everybody assumes that’s because it’s cold,” said Dr. Ramon Bataller, the chief of hepatology at UPMC, professor of medicine at Pitt, associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center, and lead author on the study in a press release.


Bataller said that he and his team surprisingly couldn’t find one paper written on this subject and decided to rectify that. So he, alongside 13 other researchers, set out to pour over meteorological information and a ton of public health data to see if they could find a connection between alcohol intake or alcoholic cirrhosis and the climate one lives in and, wouldn’t ya know it, they did. In a paper for the scientific journal Hepatology, the crew laid out their findings.


Maps showing temperature, boozin', and sunlight hours.Photo via Ventura-Cots et al./Hepatology/John Wiley and Sons.

“This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis,” said Bataller. The group said they tried to control for religion, regulations, or other things that could impact a populations rate of boozin’ in the study and say more research is needed into this phenomenon.

The crew found that simply put, the colder the climate you’re in the more likely you are to booze, binge drink like a teenager, and suffer from a disease which arises from drinking. The reasons aren’t exactly known but some theories are brought up in the paper. One is because “alcohol is a vasodilator—meaning it increases the flow of warm blood to the skin, which is full of temperature sensors. Booze quite literally makes you feel warmer. So that nip of whiskey your uncle takes as he’s shoveling the walkway quite literally is warming him up. In, an admittedly darker explanation, alcohol consumption is connected to depression—something prevalent in colder places where sunlight is limited.


As a man from just north of Edmonton, one of the colder inhabited places in North America, I know this phenomenon well—note I said ‘one of the colder,’ people from Winnipeg or the territories, don’t angrily email me to tell me how I ‘have not idea what cold truly is.’ Whether it be a nip of whiskey to warm you up, drinking to pass the time because you can’t go outside, or braving the cold with your snowsuit and a case of Lucky Lager as you wait patiently for your turn to take a rip on the ‘87 Yamaha Enticer you and your friends nicknamed the Terminator, I understand the drive for inebriation when the temperature drops.

There’s something to be said about living somewhere where Mother Nature is actively out to kill you for several months out of the year. There just seems to be a stronger sense of community in places where the cold can, you know, literally murder you as opposed to places with milder winters like Toronto. Along with the sense community, I’ve found the colder cities booze far harder. I understand this is completely anecdotal but, hey, now the data backs me up.

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