Studies on alcohol rarely, if ever, focus on anything but the downsides -- and hooo boy are there downsides. Yet people keep on drinking anyway, more than ever, in fact. So one group of scientists (well, social scientists, but roll with it) finally said: Screw it, let's focus on the upside.
A team of sociologists and economists from England just published the results of a study that quantified just how fun it is to get drunk.
And the tl;dr conclusion is: Fun to quite fun.
The team used data from Mappiness, an iPhone app that checks in on users at various points throughout the day and has them rate their happiness in that moment on a scale of one to 100. The data for the study included two million responses from approximately 31,000 people over the course of 2010 through 2013. That's large, and necessarily so, data set, which lends quite a bit of credence to the results.
Here are the results...
Yes, people are indisputably happier when they're drunk. The average person who's drinking rated their happiness in the moment 10.79 points higher on the 1-100 scale than someone who wasn't. That's a massive difference.
Controlling for fun activities somewhat lowered the jump. But... the previous result doesn't tell the whole story. The researchers wanted to isolate only the effect of alcohol on happiness. Since we're more likely to drink in fun social settings (watching a game, at a party, quinceanera season), the researchers ran the numbers again but controlled for things like activities, time of day, social environment and location. When all those were stripped away, people drinking were 3.88 points higher on the 1-100 scale than a sober person. In other words, the fun-ness of an activity has more of an effect on happiness than drinking, but drinking isn't insignificant either.
Drinking makes fun times slightly more fun -- but it makes bad times much more fun. When people had alcohol and did something fun (to quote the study, "enjoyable activities [like] socializing and making love"), the increase in happiness was marginal. But when someone was doing something terrible ("traveling/commuting or waiting") and drank, it made it way more fun.
Chicken/egg. With any study like this, there's invariably the chicken/egg question: Does drinking make people happy, or does being happy make people drink? But thanks to the large and thorough data set, the researchers could control for this question too by checking people's baseline happiness levels. And they found that drinking does have a statistically significant impact on happiness. So yes, drinking makes someone happy, happiness doesn't necessarily make someone drink.
And finally, the requisite downer. The study also found that the happiness that comes from drinking is ephemeral. It doesn't lead to any kind of long term increase in overall happiness or life satisfaction and, of course, people who are abuse alcohol were less happy overall.
Conclusions: Drinking alcohol will probably make you happier in the moment, especially if you get drunk in boring situations, like at work or jury duty. In fact, maybe you should bring booze to boring things. But you can stop pausing in the middle of sex to take a hot swig of Schlitz, since you're already having fun without it. And finally, alcohol won't make you happier in life, but it probably won't make you less happy either unless you become dependent. It's fleeting happiness, but genuine happiness in the moment, long term notwithstanding. So the study is very much in the vein of "eat, drink and be merry -- for tomorrow we die," or Tripping Billology, if you will.