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Updated 20 September 2016

Surprise! Beer makes people happier and friendlier

Swiss researchers found scientific proof that drinking beer makes people more social and more empathetic.

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Raise a glass of your favourite brew and toast the Swiss researchers who offer scientific proof for what you surely suspected and probably hoped.

Seeing happy faces

Drinking beer does make you friendlier, happier, less inhibited – maybe even sexier, they report.

But that's not all.

"We found that drinking a glass of beer helps people see happy faces faster, and enhances concern for positive emotional situations," said lead researcher Matthias Liechti, head of psychopharmacology research at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland.

In other words, drinking beer might make you more social and more empathetic.

Read: Does drinking really make you happy?

Researchers came to these not-so-sobering conclusions after studying 30 men and 30 women. Half were randomly assigned to drink enough beer to raise their blood alcohol level to about 0.4 grams per litre. (The amount was proportional to their body size.) The others quaffed a non-alcoholic brew.

More eager to socialise

Before and after, both groups performed various tasks, including facial recognition as well as tests of their empathy and sexual arousal. Both groups then switched roles and repeated the tests.

The upshot: The researchers found that people were more eager to socialise after a drink or two. This was especially true for women and for volunteers who had been more inhibited socially.

Read: Weird facts about beer

Drinking also made it easier for some people, particularly women, to look at sexually explicit images. But it didn't make them any more turned on, the study found.

The findings were published in the journal Psychopharmacology. They were also to be presented at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) in Vienna, Austria.

"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," said Dr Wim van den Brink, former head of the ECNP Scientific Programme Committee.

Read: How much alcohol is too much?

Though he was not involved in the study, van den Brink offered several theories for differences between men and women. They could stem from differences in blood alcohol levels after the same amount of beer; differences in tolerance due to previous alcohol use; or socio-cultural factors, he said.

Provokes the desire

"It should also be recognised 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," he said in an ECNP news release.

But before you start chugging away, van den Brink pointed out that people's emotions may not reflect their actual behaviour while under alcohol's influence. As Shakespeare noted in Macbeth, "It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."

Read more:

The 6 stages of getting drunk

12 ways to drink less

What are you drinking?

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