Whether you prefer to drink around a summer BBQ, or cozied up by the fireplace in wintertime, you might be wondering if the weather has anything to do with how much you drink. Do people drink more in summer or winter? Spring or fall?
While each person is different, it turns out there are trends in how much alcohol people consume throughout the year. But is one season more popular than others for alcohol use? What season do people drink the most?
The Holiday Effect
One major factor in how much people drink is the holidays. Whether it’s the night before Thanksgiving, July 4th, or New Years Eve, people tend to buy and consume more alcohol when there’s an important occasion to celebrate.
Because of this, the summer months can be a popular time for drinking. Labor Day, Independence Day, or even a friend hosting a BBQ can be a good excuse to crack open a beer. And, according to Statista, July and August were some of the highest months for alcohol sales in 2019.
But when it comes to holidays, few times of year can rival November and December. Many retailers report their highest alcohol sales in the fourth quarter of the year (from October until New Years Eve). With the large number of holiday gatherings—not to mention the added stress of the season—it would appear that the winter holidays are one of the most popular times for alcohol use.
Why Do People Drink More in the Winter?
Besides the role of alcohol in celebrating the holidays, there are several other reasons some people might drink more during the cold winter months.
To begin with, there’s the impact of the weather: One study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh found that people were more likely to drink excessively, and experience alcohol-related liver disease, when they lived in colder, darker climates.
One explanation for this may be the belief that alcohol warms your body up. In fact, this can often feel like the case. However, the warming effects of alcohol are generally an illusion.
Alcohol widens the blood vessels directly under the skin, which may make you feel hot or flushed. But in reality, alcohol actually worsens your body’s temperature regulation. Heavy drinking can increase your chances of hypothermia in the winter cold.
Another reason people might drink more during dark, cold weather is seasonal depression. Evidence shows a strong connection between depression and alcohol use, and it’s likely that millions of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year.
It’s still unclear exactly what causes seasonal depression, but decreased exposure to sunlight, vitamin D deficiency, overproduction of melatonin, and decreased physical activity may all play a role. Possible solutions include light therapy, finding an indoor exercise routine you can stick with, and taking supplements.
If you’ve noticed yourself drinking more during the winter months, or are concerned about a loved one’s cold-weather drinking habits, there are new solutions. Ria Health offers alcohol treatment from home, through an innovative smartphone app. Get access to expert medical advice, anti-craving medications, weekly coaching meetings, and more—100 percent online.
- Statista. Monthly beer, wine and liquor store sales United States, 2019. Accessed December 17, 2020
- WIVB. A “booze” in business: Alcohol sales spike during the holiday season. Accessed December 17, 2020
- National Institute of Mental Health. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Accessed December 17, 2020
- National institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The Truth About Holiday Spirits. Accessed December 17, 2020
- Ventura-Cots M et al. Colder Weather and Fewer Sunlight Hours Increase Alcohol Consumption and Alcoholic Cirrhosis Worldwide. Hepatology 2019; 69(5): 1916-1930. Accessed December 17, 2020