I Want Happiness, So Give Me My Damned Wine!
Despite news over the years concerning the positive health effects of drinking wine and the positive association wine drinking has with other healthful pursuits, the rage against alcohol from many quarters is constant. Entire organizations, associations and government agencies are founded for the purpose of reminding us how bad alcohol is and to getting us to drink none or less.
Recent reports have cast a shadow on the long-held belief that moderate consumption is good for you and in fact makes this kind of recommendation that will strike fear in the hears of moderate and responsible drinkers:
“The researchers conclude that reducing alcohol consumption across all levels of consumption – even light to moderate drinking – is beneficial for heart health.”
But as researchers have calculated that drinking less or no alcohol is better for us, I wonder if they have factored in the amount of pleasure that is lost if we stop drinking or even simply drink less.
Maybe they should. It turns out the Federal Government’s new set of tobacco regulations actually has attempted to quantify just how much pleasure is lost when smoking is reduced or stopped. The New York Times describes the governments calculation this way:
“Buried deep in the federal government’s voluminous new tobacco regulations is a little-known cost-benefit calculation…: the happiness quotient. It assumes that the benefits from reducing smoking — fewer early deaths and diseases of the lungs and heart — have to be discounted by 70 percent to offset the loss in pleasure that smokers suffer when they give up their habit.”
Let’s bring this back to alcohol and wine since the calculus that goes into the issue of smoking seems pretty problematic to me. However, what about wine?
If it is true that I will increase my heart health by stopping all consumption of wine, how ought I balance this benefits against the benefit of happiness I gain from gulping down wine here and there? More fundamentally, should the happiness I gain from drinking even be a factor in calculating the costs and benefits derived from drinking wine?
I don’t know. But I do have evidence that being happy is good for your health. In fact a recent study identified four things that led to happiness that in turn led to better health
• Emotional vitality: a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement
• Optimism: the perspective that good things will happen, and that one’s actions account for the good things that occur in life
• Supportive networks of family and friends
• Being good at “self-regulation,” i.e. bouncing back from stressful challenges and knowing that things will eventually look up again; choosing healthy behaviors such as physical activity and eating well; and avoiding risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, drinking alcohol to excess, and regular overeating
Surely that regular few glasses of wine during the week aid me in being engaged as it is a social lubricant, is certain proof that good things happen (at least when the wine is good), helps encourage my friends and family to stay close knowing I have a large supply of wine I’m willing to share, and assuming I don’t indulge to excess.
The fact is this: There is no question about it that among the vast majority of people who drink in moderation, real happiness and real pleasure is gained from that drinking. However, whether this happiness ought to be factor in any calculation of well-being should probably fall to philosophers of food and wine like Dwight Furrow and others of a similar philosophical and analytical bent who can make a better case than I can…which boils down to “I want happiness, now give me my damned wine!”