How Different Types Of Alcohol Affect Your Mood

By Britni de la Cretaz 11/30/17
A new study found that a person's level of alcohol dependence affects their level of emotion when they drink.
An excited man holding two beer bottles

We all know the stereotypes—that whiskey makes you angry or wine makes you silly—but is there any truth to them? A new study looks at just that, examining the emotional reactions to consuming different types of alcohol.

The study, published recently in BMJ Open, surveyed almost 30,000 people in 21 countries. Researchers examined the participants' different emotional responses, which included "energized, relaxed, sexy, confident, tired, aggressive, ill, restless and tearful" when drinking different kinds of alcohol in different settings over a 12-month period.

What they found was that liquor was more likely to induce emotional reactions of all kinds than wine or beer. Liquor was also more likely to cause drinkers to feel aggressive, though aggression was more likely in respondents who were potentially alcohol dependent or were demonstrating risky drinking patterns. Men were also more likely to report feeling aggression than women were.

Other than the aggression, however, women were more likely to report feeling all other emotions, as were younger drinkers. Previous research has supported the claim that drinking wine might be associated with feelings of sadness and depression in women. According to Munchies, white wine in particular is high in sulphites, which have been known to cause depression and headaches.

There’s a reason that alcohol has such a profound effect on our emotions. As Mental Floss explains, when people become intoxicated, eventually the limbic system of the brain is affected. This is the area that regulates our emotions. Because alcohol affects the connections between synapses, our brains don’t properly interpret information and things can be thrown off. This is how some people end up experiencing mood swings or extreme emotional reactions.

One important finding from this new research is that heavy drinkers were more likely to feel the whole spectrum of emotions when they drank. “Findings suggest dependent drinkers rely on alcohol to obtain the positive emotions they associated with drinking, being five times more likely to feel energized compared with low risk drinkers,” the authors write.

“However, heavier drinkers also reported negative emotions more frequently with respondents being just over six times more likely to report feelings of aggression, which may in part be a result of drinking greater quantities of alcohol in a session so increasing the impact on emotions.” 

This may be key to understanding the differences between people with alcohol misuse problems and those who do not experience them, including potential motivations for imbibing.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.