John Stimp­fig

‘Drink­ing wine with oth­ers be­comes a pro­found ac­tiv­ity’

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

This morn­ing, i switched on my ra­dio and heard the de­press­ing head­line news that an­other ma­jor study (pub­lished in The Lancet and look­ing at drinkers in 195 coun­tries over 26 years), has con­cluded that there are ‘no safe lev­els for drink­ing al­co­hol’. This clearly can’t be dis­missed; but is it the whole story?

not ac­cord­ing to ox­ford Univer­sity evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gist, Pro­fes­sor robin Dun­bar. in con­trast to The Lancet re­port, Dun­bar firmly be­lieves that re­spon­si­ble, so­cial drink­ing is a pos­i­tive boon for both in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­ety. ‘Pri­mate so­cial groups rely on “bond­ed­ness” to main­tain so­cial co­her­ence,’ he ex­plains. ‘And for hu­mans, this is where a shared bot­tle of red wine plays a pow­er­ful role. it could be the se­cret of a long and happy life.’

it’s not just the loos­en­ing of in­hi­bi­tions. more im­por­tant is al­co­hol’s abil­ity to trig­ger the brain’s en­dor­phin sys­tem. ‘The opi­ate-ef­fect that al­co­hol be­stows is vi­tal in estab­lish­ing the re­la­tion­ships that al­low us to trust and sup­port each other.’ seen in this light, drink­ing wine with oth­ers be­comes a pro­found ac­tiv­ity, Dun­bar con­tin­ues. ‘it en­ables hu­mans to open up their deep­est selves, giv­ing an­other twist to the phrase in vino ver­i­tas.’

Could this ex­plain why al­co­hol has played such a cen­tral role in so many civil­i­sa­tions and so­ci­eties? A re­cent con­fer­ence or­gan­ised by Dun­bar for The Bri­tish Academy, ti­tled ‘Al­co­hol and hu­mans; Why do we drink?’, ex­plored pre­cisely this topic and found it a com­pelling ar­gu­ment.

Dun­bar also ar­gues that mod­er­ate so­cial drink­ing is ex­tremely good for us. it sets off a vir­tu­ous cir­cle of ben­e­fits, which The Lancet study ig­nores. sim­ply put, so­cial drink­ing en­cour­ages highly ben­e­fi­cial hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. This stim­u­lates our brains, help­ing to ward off de­men­tia. it in­creases the num­ber of friends we have and the qual­ity of those friend­ships, giv­ing us a greater sense of be­long­ing and well-be­ing. There are even health ben­e­fits, the boost to the en­dor­phin sys­tem strength­en­ing our im­mune sys­tem and al­low­ing us to re­cover from ail­ments more quickly.

in short, a glass of wine with friends helps pro­vide longer, hap­pier and more ful­fill­ing lives. Plus, we are more en­gaged, thought­ful, re­spon­si­ble and sup­port­ive mem­bers of so­ci­ety. so, in spite of The Lancet re­port, i for one will not be go­ing tee­to­tal. And nei­ther should you. D

John Stimp­fig is con­tent di­rec­tor of De­can­ter

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.