Behind the Forecast: Brutal cold means boozy tendencies, study finds

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Science Behind the Forecast: Brutal cold and boozy tendencies

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Does where you live and the weather around you impact how much you drink? Science certainly thinks so.

A study released in November by the University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology explained that people living in colder areas that see less sunlight drink more alcohol than those who live in warmer climates. We’ve all thought it for years but now there is more data to back up the theory.

The University of Pittsburgh researchers dove into data from the World Meteorological Organization, the World Health Organization and other groups and found a correlation between the average temperature and number sunlight hours and alcohol consumption. Researchers took several factors into account when calculating alcohol consumption including total alcohol intake per capita, percent of the population that drinks alcohol, the incidence of binge drinking, current laws and even religion. Researchers also said that climate contributed to higher levels of alcoholic liver disease.

“This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis,” said senior author Ramon Bataller, M.D., Ph.D., chief of hepatology at UPMC, professor of medicine at Pitt, and associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center.

The study examined drinking habits in 193 countries and included data from 3,144 counties in all 50 U.S. states.

According to the study’s authors, other factors may play a role in this trend. Less sunlight is correlated with higher rates of depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder is a greater issue during the winter) and depression is a binge drinking risk factor.

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The cold is dangerous on it’s own. From 2006 to 2010, around 6,600 U.S. residents died from exposure to excessive natural cold, hypothermia, or both, according to the CDC. Alcohol and the cold together opens up a whole new world of risks.

Alcohol is a vasodilator which means it increases blood flow to the skin; this is what makes you feel warmer. However, greater blood flow to the extremities leads to overall heat loss and a lower core body temperature.

A lower core temperature can easily lead to hypothermia if a person’s body temperature drops to dangerous levels because of extended exposure to the cold, according to the CDC. Alcohol impedes the body’s ability to shiver. Shivering is an important way that your body fights the cold.

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