Drinking at your local is good for you

two cups of beer in a pub in...
two cups of beer in a pub in...

People who drink regularly at a 'local' pub are happier, healthier and more popular than those who don't, research has revealed.

A report by Oxford University professor Robin Dunbar for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) claims that people who regularly visit a 'local' or community-type pub have more close friends than those who don't.

While people in city centre bars tend to socialise in larger groups, they have much shorter conversations and are less engaged with the people they're with.

And the regular pub-goers are healthier too. They get through less alcohol than people visiting larger pubs - less, even, than casual pub-goers.

But the real reason local pubs are good for you, says Professor Dunbar, is that they help you maintain friendships, and this has been proved to be good for your health. The more people you know, and the more often you see them, the better you feel and the healthier you are.

"Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and wellbeing. Making and maintaining friendships, however, is something that has to be done face-to-face: the digital world is simply no substitute," says Professor Dunbar.

"Given the increasing tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed accessible venues where people can meet old friends and make new ones becomes ever more necessary."

The findings will cheer anybody still reeling from the government's latest healthy drinking guidelines, which peg the maximum safe amount for both men and women at just a couple of units of alcohol a day - less than a large glass of wine.

That research, though, is already being widely debunked by scientists. It ignores the proven health benefits of alcohol against heart disease and strokes, for a start.

And for some reason, rather than looking at real figures on alcohol-related illness and death, the government panel decided to rely on a computer model instead.

It's a pretty inaccurate model, by all accounts. Iindeed, one of its conclusions (which didn't make it into the press release) is that women can actually drink more than men without damaging their health - something that no real-world study has ever found.

Last week, no lesser figures than the current and next presidents of the Royal Statistical Society, professors Peter Diggle and Sir David Spiegelhalter, wrote to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, outlining their concerns about the new guidelines.

"We are concerned that, in their recent communications about alcohol guidelines, the Department of Health did not properly reflect the statistical evidence provided to the Expert Guideline Group, and this could lead to both a loss of reputation and reduced public trust in future health guidance," they wrote.

Chin chin!

Why Are Britain's Pubs Drying Up?
Why Are Britain's Pubs Drying Up?