1. Maintaining an active sex life may lead to improved job satisfaction, engagement in work

    March 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Oregon State University press release:

    Maintaining a healthy sex life at home boosts employees’ job satisfaction and engagement at the office, underscoring the value of a strong work-life balance, an Oregon State University researcher has found.

    A study of the work and sex habits of married employees found that those who prioritized sex at home unknowingly gave themselves a next-day advantage at work, where they were more likely to immerse themselves in their tasks and enjoy their work lives, said Keith Leavitt, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Business.

    “We make jokes about people having a ‘spring in their step,’ but it turns out this is actually a real thing and we should pay attention to it,” said Leavitt, an expert in organizational behavior and management. “Maintaining a healthy relationship that includes a healthy sex life will help employees stay happy and engaged in their work, which benefits the employees and the organizations they work for.”

    The study also showed that bringing work-related stress home from the office negatively impinges on employees’ sex lives. In an era when smart phones are prevalent and after-hours responses to work emails are often expected, the findings highlight the importance of leaving work at the office, Leavitt said. When work carries so far into an employee’s personal life that they sacrifice things like sex, their engagement in work can decline.

    The researchers’ findings were published this month in the Journal of Management. Co-authors are Christopher Barnes and Trevor Watkins of the University of Washington and David Wagner of the University of Oregon.

    Sexual intercourse triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the reward centers in the brain, as well as oxytocin, a neuropeptide associated with social bonding and attachment. That makes sex a natural and relatively automatic mood elevator and the benefits extend well into the next day, Leavitt said.

    To understand the impact of sex on work, the researchers followed 159 married employees over the course of two weeks, asking them to complete two brief surveys each day. They found that employees who engaged in sex reported more positive moods the next day, and the elevated mood levels in the morning led to more sustained work engagement and job satisfaction throughout the workday.

    The effect, which appears to linger for at least 24 hours, was equally strong for both men and women and was present even after researchers took into account marital satisfaction and sleep quality, which are two common predictors of daily mood.

    “This is a reminder that sex has social, emotional and physiological benefits, and it’s important to make it a priority,” Leavitt said. “Just make time for it.”

    Twenty years ago, monitoring sleep or daily step counts or actively practicing mindful meditation might’ve seemed odd but now they are all things people practice as part of efforts to lead healthier, more productive lives. It may be time to rethink sex and its benefits as well, he said.

    “Making a more intentional effort to maintain a healthy sex life should be considered an issue of human sustainability, and as a result, a potential career advantage,” he said. U.S. employers probably won’t follow the lead of a town councilman in Sweden who recently proposed that local municipal employees be allowed to use an hour of their work week for sex. The councilman’s hope is to boost the town’s declining population as well as improve employee moods and productivity.

    But employers here can steer their employee engagement efforts more broadly toward work-life balance policies that encourage workers to disconnect from the office, Leavitt said. The French recently enacted a law that bars after-hours email and gives employees a “right to disconnect.”

    “Technology offers a temptation to stay plugged in, but it’s probably better to unplug if you can,” he said. “And employers should encourage their employees to completely disengage from work after hours.”


  2. Combating negative emotions with self-guided positive imagery

    March 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Flashbacks of scenes from traumatic events often haunt those suffering from psychiatric conditions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “The close relationship between the human imagery system and our emotions can cause deep emotional perturbations,” says Dr Svetla Velikova of Smartbrain in Norway. “Imagery techniques are often used in cognitive psychotherapy to help patients modify disturbing mental images and overcome negative emotions.” Velikova and her team set out to see if such techniques could become self-guided and developed at home, away from the therapist’s chair.

    Healthy people are also emotionally effected by what we see and the images we remember. Velikova explains, “if we visually remember an image from an unpleasant interaction with our boss, this can cause an increased level of anxiety about our work and demotivation.” There is great interest in ways to combat such everyday negative emotional responses through imagery training. But she warns, “this is a challenging task and requires a flexible approach. Each day we face different problems and a therapist teaches us how to identify topics and strategies for imagery exercises.”

    To find out if we can train ourselves to use imagery techniques and optimize our emotional state, Velikova and co-workers turned to 30 healthy volunteers. During a two-day workshop the volunteers learnt a series of imagery techniques. They learnt how to cope with negative emotions from past events through imagery transformation, how to use positive imagery for future events or goals, and techniques to improve social interactions and enhance their emotional balance in daily life. They then spent the next 12 weeks training themselves at home for 15-20 minutes a day, before attending another similar two-day workshop.

    Velikova compared the results of participant psychological assessment and brain activity, or electroencephalographic (EEG), measurement, before and after the experiment. “The psychological testing showed that depressive symptoms were less prominent. The number of those with subthreshold depression, expressing depressive symptoms but not meeting the criteria for depression, was halved. Overall, volunteers were more satisfied with life and perceived themselves as more efficient” she explains.

    Following analysis, the EEG data showed significant changes in the beta activity in the right medial prefrontal cortex of the brain. Velikova notes that this region is known to be involved in imaging pleasant emotions and contributing to the degree of satisfaction with life. There were also changes in the functional connectivity of the brain, including increased connectivity between the temporal regions from both hemispheres, which Velikova attributes to enhanced coordination of networks linked to processing of images. She concludes, “this combination of EEG findings also suggests a possible increase in the activity of GABA (gamma -aminobutyric acid), well known for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.”

    Velikova and co-workers’ results indicate that self-guided emotional imagery training has great potential to improve the everyday emotional wellbeing in healthy people. The team is now further exploring how the approach affects the cognitive function of healthy people. With minimal professional intervention, this technique could be developed to be a cost-effective aid for those with subthreshold depression. It could also be promoted by businesses to help improve workforce morale and drive up productivity.


  3. Married people have lower levels of stress hormone

    February 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Carnegie Mellon University media release:

    couple on dateStudies have suggested that married people are healthier than those who are single, divorced, or widowed. A new Carnegie Mellon University study provides the first biological evidence to explain how marriage impacts health.

    Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, the researchers found that married individuals had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who never married or were previously married. These findings support the belief that unmarried people face more psychological stress than married individuals. Prolonged stress is associated with increased levels of cortisol which can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, which in turn promotes the development and progression of many diseases.

    “It’s is exciting to discover a physiological pathway that may explain how relationships influence health and disease,” said Brian Chin, a Ph.D. student in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

    Over three non-consecutive days, the researchers collected saliva samples from 572 healthy adults aged 21-55. Multiple samples were taken during each 24-hour period and tested for cortisol.

    The results showed that the married participants had lower cortisol levels than the never married or previously married people across the three day period. The researchers also compared each person’s daily cortisol rhythm — typically, cortisol levels peak when a person wakes up and decline during the day. Those who were married showed a faster decline, a pattern that has been associated with less heart disease, and longer survival among cancer patients.

    These data provide important insight into the way in which our intimate social relationships can get under the skin to influence our health,” said laboratory director and co-author Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology.


  4. How to avoid feeling depressed on Facebook

    December 9, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Lancaster University media release:

    Computer UserComparing yourself with others on Facebook is more likely to lead to feelings of depression than making social comparisons offline.

    That’s one of the findings from a review of all the research on the links between social networking and depression by David Baker and Dr Guillermo Perez Algorta from Lancaster University.

    They examined studies from 14 countries with 35,000 participants aged between 15 and 88.

    There are among 1.8 billion people on online social networking sites worldwide, with Facebook alone having more than 1 billion active users.

    Concerns over the effect on mental health led the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 to define “Facebook depression” as a “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

    The Lancaster University review of existing research found that the relationship between online social networking and depression may be very complex and associated with factors like age and gender.

    In cases where there is a significant association with depression, this is because comparing yourself with others can lead to “rumination” or overthinking.

    • Negative comparison with others when using Facebook was found to predict depression via increased rumination
    • Frequent posting on Facebook was found to be associated with depression via rumination

    However, the frequency, quality and type of online social networking is also important.

    Facebook users were more at risk of depression when they:

    • Felt envy triggered by observing others
    • Accepted former partners as Facebook friends
    • Made negative social comparisons
    • Made frequent negative status updates

    Gender and personality also influenced the risk, with women and people with neurotic personalities more likely to become depressed.

    But the researchers stressed that online activity could also help people with depression who use it as a mental health resource and to enhance social support.


  5. Want to give a good gift? Think past the ‘big reveal’

    by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science media release:

    PresentsGift givers often make critical errors in gift selection during the holiday season, according to a new research article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    The research, led by Jeff Galak (Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business) and co-authors Elanor Williams (Indiana University Kelley School of Business) and Tepper School Ph.D. student Julian Givi, suggests that gift givers tend to focus on the moment of exchange when selecting a gift, whereas gift recipients are more focused on the long-term utility or practical attributes of the gift.

    “We studied many existing frameworks from research in this area, trying to find a common ground between them. What we found was that the giver wants to ‘wow’ the recipient and give a gift that can be enjoyed immediately, in the moment, while the recipient is more interested in a gift that provides value over time,” explained Galak. “We are seeing a mismatch between the thought processes and motivations of gift givers and recipients. Put another way, there may be times when the vacuum cleaner, a gift that is unlikely to wow most recipients when they open it on Christmas day, really ought to be at the top of the shopping list as it will be well used and liked for a long time.”

    The researchers found that this differential focus on the moment of exchange and the desirability of the gift showed up in a number of different ways. For instance, some gift giving errors included:

    • Giving unrequested gifts in an effort to surprise the recipient, when they are likely hoping for a gift from a pre-constructed list or registry;
    • Focusing on tangible, material gifts, which are likely to be immediately well received, when experiential gifts, such as theater tickets or a massage, would result in more enjoyment later on;
    • Giving socially responsible gifts, such as donations to a charity in the recipient’s name, which seem special at the moment of gift exchange but provide almost no value to recipients down the road.

    The researchers make recommendations for those hoping to choose better gifts, advising them to better empathize with gift recipients when thinking about gifts that would be both appreciated and useful.

    “We exchange gifts with the people we care about, in part, in an effort to make them happy and strengthen our relationships with them,” Galak added. “By considering how valuable gifts might be over the course of the recipient’s ownership of them, rather than how much of a smile it might put on recipients’ faces when they are opened, we can meet these goals and provide useful, well-received gifts.”


  6. Creative activities promote day-to-day wellbeing

    November 29, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Otago media release:

    The creative brainEveryday creative activity may lead to an “upward spiral” of increased well-being and creativity in young adults, new research from New Zealand’s University of Otago suggests.

    In their study, Department of Psychology researchers asked 658 university students to keep a daily diary of their experiences and emotional states over 13 days.

    After analysing the diaries the researchers, led by Dr Tamlin Conner, found a pattern of the participants feeling more enthusiasm and higher “flourishing” than usual following days when they were more creative.

    Flourishing is a psychological concept that can be described as increasing positive growth in oneself.

    While the current study did not specifically ask the university students to record the nature of their creative activity, the researchers had collected such information informally in an earlier study.

    They found that the most common examples reported were songwriting; creative writing (poetry, short fiction); knitting and crochet; making new recipes; painting, drawing, and sketching; graphic and digital design; and musical performance.

    Dr Conner says she and her team wanted to find out if engaging in everyday creative acts makes people feel better emotionally.

    “There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional wellbeing,” Dr Conner says.

    The researchers found that “positive affect” (PA) — which encompasses feelings such as pleasurable engagement, happiness, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm — on a particular day did not predict next-day creative activity.

    “Our earlier research found that PA appears to increase creativity during the same day, but our latest findings show that there is no cross-day effect. Rather, it is creative activity on the previous day that predicts wellbeing the next,” she says.

    Even when controlling for next-day creative activity, the previous day’s creativity significantly predicted energised PA and flourishing.

    Dr Conner and her co-authors write that: “this finding suggests a particular kind of upward spiral for wellbeing and creativity — engaging in creative behavior leads to increases in wellbeing the next day, and this increased wellbeing is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day.

    They conclude that “overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning.”

     


  7. Older adults gain weight when spouse is stressed out

    October 20, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan media release:

    marriageStress isn’t good for your waist line. For older married couples, the added pounds may be caused by a spouse’s long-term stress levels.

    A new University of Michigan study looked at how the negative quality of marriage can be detrimental for weight gain — possibly leading to obesity — when couples 50 and older are stressed. The results varied by gender.

    The study specifically focused on chronic stress, which is an ongoing circumstance occurring for more than a year and threatens to overwhelm an individual’s resources, such as financial problems, difficulties at work or long-term caregiving.

    Participants came from the nationally longitudinal Health and Retirement Study at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The sample included 2,042 married individuals who completed questions about their waist circumference, negative marriage quality, stress levels and other factors in 2006 and 2010. Couples were married for an average of 34 years.

    Greater negative quality ties as reported by husbands exacerbated the effects of partner stress on both husbands’ and wives’ waist circumference.

    Interestingly, lower negative quality ties reported by wives exacerbated the effect of wife stress on husbands’ waist circumference, said Kira Birditt, a research associate professor at ISR’s Survey Research Center.

    For the increased risk of obesity, 59 percent of the husbands and 64 percent of the wives were at higher risk of disease in the study’s first assessment, whereas 66 percent of husbands and 70 percent of wives were at increased risk at the study’s conclusion.

    About 9 percent of the participants showed a 10 percent increase in waist circumference, which represented an average increase of four inches of more over four years, the study indicated.

    “Marriage has powerful influences on health,” said Birditt, the study’s lead author. “The stress experienced by partners, and not the individual’s stress, was associated with increased waist circumference. This effect of stress was even stronger in particular spousal relationships.”

    Husbands, she said, usually experience lower negative marital quality and thus greater negative feelings may be less expected and more harmful. Because women tend to report greater negative marital quality, low levels of negative marital quality among wives may be an indicator of a lack of investment in the marriage.

    Researchers said the study does not address what to do to lessen stress. However, other findings indicate that it’s important for couples to cope with stress together, and that goals created by a couple can be more effective than goals created individually.

    Birditt said the findings are applicable to younger couples. Previous research has shown that stress has strong effects on marital quality among this group, too.

    “We can only assume that this may translate into health effects, although they are probably not as strong on younger, often healthier, samples,” she said.

    The study’s other authors were Nicky Newton, assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, and U-M researchers Jim Cranford and Noah Webster.

    The findings appear in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

     


  8. Drinking beer helps us see happy faces faster

    October 5, 2016 by Ashley

    From the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) media release:

    Photo: BeerWhat does drinking beer really do? A new study has shown that drinking beer affects the way we see specific emotions and allows us to see happy faces faster. It also has surprising effects on sexual perception. These results* are presented at the ECNP Conference in Vienna, with simultaneous publication in the peer-reviewed journalPsychopharmacology.

    Although the vast majority of adults have direct experience of drinking alcohol, there is surprisingly little scientific data on the effects of alcohol on the processing of emotional social information or on sexual arousal, and no data on the effects of alcohol on empathy. Now researchers from the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, have attempted to answer some of the questions around the way alcohol alters the way we relate to others, and how alcohol affects sexual arousal.

    In a double-blind, random-order, cross-over study, researchers enlisted 60 healthy participants (30 men, 30 women) aged between 18 and 50.They then gave 30 of them a glass of alcoholic beer (0.5L depending on body weight and sex). This raised their blood alcohol content to around 0.4 g/L Thirty control subjects were given non-alcoholic beer.

    The subjects then underwent a range of tasks, including a face recognition test, empathy test, and sexual arousal test. At the end of the tests, the subjects and controls were switched and the process repeated. The main results they found were:

    • Drinking beer helps people see happy faces faster.
    • It also increased the tendency to want to be with others in a happy social situation
    • These effects were greater in women than in men, but were also greater in those who had previously shown some social inhibition
    • It made it easier for people (especially women) to view explicit sexual images, but it didn’t seem to lead to greater sexual arousal

    The researchers also found that ‘before and after’ levels of the hormone oxytocin did not change. (oxytocin is thought to mediate aspects of social cognition and is involved in bonding).

    Lead researcher, Professor Matthias Liechti (University Hospital, Basel) said: “The effect of many medications and substances of abuse have been tested on various tests of emotion processing and social cognition. However, although, many people drink beer and know its effects through personal experience there is surprisingly little scientific data on its effects on the processing of emotional social information. We found that drinking a glass of beer helps people see happy faces faster, and enhances concern for positive emotional situations. Alcohol also facilitates the viewing of sexual images, consistent with disinhibition, but it does not actually enhance sexual arousal. These effects of alcohol on social cognition likely enhance sociability.”

    Commenting, Professor Wim van den Brink (Amsterdam), past Chair of the ECNP Scientific Programme Committee, said: “This is an interesting study confirming conventional wisdom that alcohol is a social lubricant and that moderate use of alcohol makes people happier, more social and less inhibited when it comes to sexual engagement. The sex differences in the findings can either be explained by differences in blood alcohol concentration between males and females with the same alcohol intake, differences in tolerance due to differences in previous levels of alcohol consumption or by socio-cultural factors. It should also be recognized that different effects of alcohol can be seen according to whether your blood alcohol is increasing or decreasing, and of course how much alcohol you have taken. Finally, as Shakespeare noted**, alcohol-related emotions and cognitions as studied are not always consistent with actual behaviors.”

    * See notes for editors for full conference abstract and publication information

    ** “It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.” (Macbeth Act 2. Scene 3) [4].

    Research funded By the University Hospital Basel.


  9. Interventional policies and practices needed to prevent bullying and its harm

    May 13, 2016 by Ashley

    From the National Academy of Sciences media release:

    school_bullyBullying is a serious public health problem, with significant short- and long-term psychological consequences for both the targets and perpetrators of such behavior, and requires a commitment to developing preventive and interventional policies and practices that could make a tangible difference in the lives of many children, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

    The programs that appear most effective are those that promote a positive school environment and combine social and emotional skill-building for all students, with targeted interventions for those at greatest risk for being involved in bullying. There is emerging research that widely used zero-tolerance policies — those that impose automatic suspension or expulsion of students from school after one bullying incident — are not effective at curbing bullying or making schools safer and should be discontinued. Instead, resources should be directed to evidence-based policies and programs for bullying prevention in the United States.

    Until recently, most bullying typically occurred at school or other places where children play or congregate, but an abundance of new technologies has led to cyberbullying, through chat rooms, social media, and other forms of digital communication.

    Although it is difficult to determine the extent of bullying due to definitional and measurement inconsistencies, bullying likely affects between 18 percent and 31 percent of children and youth, and the prevalence of cyberbullying ranges from 7 percent to 15 percent. Estimates are even higher for subgroups who are particularly vulnerable, such as individuals who have disabilities, are obese, or are LGBT. In addition, children with fewer same-ethnicity peers at school appear to be at greater risk for being targets of bullying.

    Adolescents who are bullied experience a range of physical problems, including sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal concerns, and headaches. Although the full consequences of bullying on the brain are not yet understood entirely, there are changes in the stress response systems associated with being bullied that increase the risk of mental health problems, including cognitive function and self-regulation of emotions. Being bullied during childhood and adolescence has been linked to psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse into adulthood.

    Youth who bully others are more likely to be depressed, engage in high-risk activities such as theft and vandalism, and have adverse outcomes later in life compared with those who do not bully, the report says. In addition, individuals who bully others and are themselves bullied appear to be at greatest risk for poor psychological and social outcomes. Children involved in bullying as perpetrators, targets, or both are also significantly more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide. However, there is not enough evidence to conclude that bullying is a causal factor in youth suicides. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report also examined the relationship between bullying and school shootings, concluding that the data are unclear on the role of bullying as a precipitating cause of these shootings.

    Zero-tolerance policies may lead to underreporting of bullying incidents because the consequence is perceived as too harsh, the committee found. The effects of school-based programs that involve all students regardless of their risk for bullying or being bullied — such as counselors or teachers presenting strategies for responding to bullying — appear to be relatively modest. Multi-component programs that combine elements of these programs along with more targeted interventions for youth at risk of bullying or being bullied — for example, teaching more intensive social-emotional skills or de-escalation approaches — appear to be most effective at reducing bullying.

    Families play a critical role in bullying prevention by providing emotional support to encourage disclosure of bullying incidents and by fostering coping skills in their children, the report says. However, the role of peers in bullying prevention as bystanders and as intervention program leaders needs further research to determine the extent to which peer-led programs are effective.

    Laws and policies have the potential to strengthen state and local efforts to prevent, identify, and respond to bullying, the report says. Over the past 15 years, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted or revised laws to address bullying, and all except Alaska include cyberbullying in their statutes. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the state attorneys general, and local education agencies should partner with researchers to collect data on an ongoing basis on the efficacy and implementation of anti-bullying laws and policies, in order to guide legislators who may amend existing laws or create new ones.

    Given the varying use of the terms “bullying” and “peer victimization” in research and practice, for this report, the committee used the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition: Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated, and bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm. The departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, Agriculture, and Defense, and the Federal Trade Commission, which are engaged in the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention (FPBP) interagency group, should foster use of a consistent definition of bullying, the report says.

    The committee also recommended federal agencies work with relevant stakeholders to sponsor the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based programs to address bullying behavior and bullying prevention training for professionals and volunteers who work directly with children and adolescents on a regular basis. In addition, social media companies should partner with the FPBP Steering Committee to adopt, implement, and evaluate on an ongoing basis policies and programs for preventing, identifying, and responding to bullying on their platforms and should publish their anti-bullying policies on their websites.

    The agencies engaged in the FPBP interagency group should gather longitudinal surveillance data on the prevalence of all forms of bullying, including physical, verbal, relational, property, cyber, and bias-based bullying, and the numbers of individuals involved in bullying, including targets, perpetrators, and bystanders, in order to have more uniform and accurate estimates of prevalence.

    Bullying has long been tolerated as a rite of passage among children and adolescents, but it has lasting negative consequences and cannot simply be ignored,” said committee chair Frederick Rivara, Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington. “This is a pivotal time for bullying prevention, and while there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, the evidence clearly supports preventive and interventional policy and practice.”


  10. Alcohol makes you momentarily happier but not more satisfied

    May 9, 2016 by Ashley

    From the University of Kent media release:

    alcohol womanResearch suggests people are momentarily happier when drinking alcohol — but that over longer periods, drinking more does not make them more satisfied with life.

    The research, led by a social policy expert at the University of Kent, also found that people who developed drinking problems were less satisfied with life.

    Although the effect of alcohol on happiness is often discussed during debates about alcohol policy and regulation, it has rarely been the subject of serious academic study. Instead, governments have simply used the economist assumption that everyone always acts rationally and in their best interests — even when they are drunk or addicted to alcohol.

    The study considered how people’s happiness and drinking change alongside each other over a period of time. The authors, Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger of the University’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, and Dr George MacKerron of the University of Sussex, made use of both an iPhone-based app and a traditional cohort study to generate the findings.

    The results suggested that, after making allowances for other factors such as illness that can effect wellbeing, there was no connection between people’s drinking and their happiness over a period of time. The exception to this was in situations where alcohol became a problem, leading to reduced feelings of wellbeing.

    Both studies took into account other possible explanations for the relationship between alcohol and happiness, although the authors concede that being absolutely sure that alcohol is causing momentary happiness is difficult. They also acknowledge that those involved in the studies are not representative of the whole population. The first study involved iPhone users, who tend to be young and wealthy, while the second study looks only at 30-42 year olds.

    But the study does offer at least some robust evidence when policymakers previously had nothing but ‘pub talk’ to rely on, say the paper’s authors. They hope the research will help policymakers properly take happiness into account when doing cost-benefit analyses of alcohol regulation — and therefore make better, more transparent decisions about which policies will benefit the population and which won’t.