Relax, drink and be merry ... it is all good for you

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The Independent Online
Laughing is good for you. Drinking makes you laugh. Therefore drinking is good for you. It sounds like a theory dreamed up in a pub, but Dr Geoff Lowe, a psychologist from Hull, has three studies to prove it's true.

As the festive season gets into full swing, Dr Lowe will tell the British Psychological Society's conference in London that moderate drinking may benefit you because of its ability to make you laugh and relax, thus lowering stress levels and boosting the immune system.

Three separate studies organised by the University of Hull found that social drinkers laugh more than those who drink little or not at all. A survey of 332 people who defined themselves as "social drinkers" showed they used humour and laughter more in everyday life than lighter drinkers or teetotallers. They were more prepared to laugh out loud even if no one else found a joke amusing.

"These are people who regarded themselves as social drinkers and perhaps who do not drink more than 50 units a week." said Dr Lowe. One unit is defined as a glass of wine, a small beer or a small serving of spirits.

A second experiment under laboratory conditions found that people drinking two bottles of Diamond White strong cider laughed 30 to 40 per cent more at the first twenty minutes of the film Naked Gun than those drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Researchers also observed how much young people laughed in bars and pubs in Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York. Again a similar finding was that those drinking seemed to be having more fun.

"Unlike the earlier biological and medical studies which suggested that alcohol has a cardiological protective effect, our message is that maybe it is something to do with the person's lifestyle and attitude to life and the fact that they engage in fun and laughter more," Dr Lowe said.

"We are saying perhaps people shouldn't use alcohol as a medicine but only as a facilitator for fun and l believe that might be the important thing."

He said that this was not carte blanche for raiding the drinks cabinet however: "I wouldn't necessarily drink more as a basis of this research," he said. "I would laugh more."