Why you want to drink more alcohol when the weather gets colder and darker

Katie O'Malley
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From Cosmopolitan

A bottle of Merlot shared over a takeaway with a friend. A round of pale ales in the pub on a Saturday night. Several rum and cokes at a work Christmas party.

As the weather turns colder and the nights draw in earlier, people love nothing more than an excuse to crack open of a bottle of their favourite tipple and sink into the warmth of the sofa in front of the fire.

However, a new study claims that your penchant for drinking heavily in the winter could have a direct link to the seasons.

Research carried out by the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre in the US has found a connection between average temperature, hours of sunlight and alcohol consumption.

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The study, published online in the Hepatology journal, used data from 193 countries which provided evidence that colder climates contributed to a higher occurrence of binge drinking and liver disease.

'It’s something that everyone assumed for decades, but no one has scientifically demonstrated it,' Dr. Ramon Bataller, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote in a press release.

The researchers also used information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation.

The science behind it

You know that warm toasty feeling - commonly known among millennials as a 'beer jacket' - you get after a few glasses of alcohol?

Well, that's because alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels and increases the flow of warm blood to the skin.

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As a result, the findings suggest that people reach for a glass of alcohol when it's cold outside to keep warm.

Shorter hours of sunlight and cooler temperatures are also related to higher rates of depression, which is well-known to be linked to an increase in drinking.

How does this affect me?

Unsurprisingly, Britain - with it's blistering cold weather at the moment - was listed among the countries which showed high levels of heavy drinking and low numbers of sunlight hours.

Meanwhile, Belarus - where sun is rarely seen from November until February - was named as the country with the highest levels of binge drinking. The average citizen consumes 17.5 litres of alcohol a year, according to figures.

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Bataller told the Pittsburgh Tribute Review: "Knowing that colder places have more drink-related problems could be helpful to the efforts in these areas to determine better policies," he added. "If you have a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse, maybe you should avoid super cold areas."

While binge drinking and liver disease are serious issues to be considered, drinking in moderation - on average 14 units of alcohol a week - has been claimed to reduce mortality risk and lower heart disease risks.

So, if you're going to order a glass of bubbly or G&T this season, here's our pick of favourite tipples you need to stock up on to keep warm this winter:

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