Gin drinkers' tears are no myth, but beer and wine are a tonic

Old-fashioned gin may be "mother's ruin" after all.
Old-fashioned gin may be "mother's ruin" after all.  Photo: Christopher Pearce

Drinkers have long blamed gin for inducing tears and sadness, but a new study suggests that the urban myth may actually have some foundation.

The biggest ever study looking into how different alcoholic drinks affect the emotions has found that spirits are far worse than beer or wine for triggering bouts of depression and unexpected weeping.

Almost 30,000 people aged between 18 to 34 were asked about how drinking red or white wine, beer or spirits affected them, either drinking at home, or when out.

Drinking spirits was also more likely to draw out negative feelings than all the other types of alcohol, according to the research by Public Health Wales. Nearly one third of spirit drinkers associated their tipple with feelings of aggression compared with around 2.5 per cent of red wine drinkers.

Similarly, nearly one quarter said spirits left them tearful, compared with 17 per cent of red wine drinkers, and nine per cent of beer and white wine drinkers.

Spirits were also the least likely to be associated with feeling relaxed, with just 20 per cent of people claiming drinks like gin, vodka and whisky calmed them down.

By comparison, more than half of red wine drinkers said they felt more relaxed after their favourite tipple, a feeling also shared with 50 per cent of beer drinkers.

Professor Mark Bellis, Public Health Wales' director of policy, research and international development, said: "Spirits are often consumed more quickly and have much higher concentrations of alcohol in them. This can result in a quicker stimulating effect as blood alcohol levels increase.

"They may also be consumed in different social occasions so people may be drinking them deliberately to feel the drunken effect quickly while other types of drink are more likely to be consumed slowly or with food.


"As people get the kick from escalating alcohol levels, the same increases reduce the brain's ability to suppress impulsive feelings or to consider the consequences of acting on them."

Gin in particular is often associated with triggering outpourings of emotion, with comedian Dylan Moran coining the phrase that it is "less of a drink and more of a mascara thinner".

In the 17th century, the beverage was labelled "mother's ruin" after the government allowed unlicensed gin production, sparking thousands of distilleries to spring up throughout England, where the cheap drink was consumed in large quantities by the poor, particularly women.

The study found spirits did have some benefits. Nearly six in 10 respondents said gin, whisky and vodka increased their energy and confidence levels. And four out of 10 said they made them feel sexier.

Writing in the journal BMJ Open, the authors concluded: "Feeling positive emotions may in part be related to the promotion of positive experiences by advertising and the media.

"Emotions experienced could also be related to when the alcohol is drunk, the levels of alcohol within each beverage type and the different compounds found in different drinks.

"Understanding emotions associated with alcohol consumption is imperative to addressing alcohol misuse, providing insight into what emotions influence drink choice between different groups in the population."

The Daily Telegraph