When you stroll into your usual drinking spot this weekend, remember you are improving your life.
Because people who are regulars at a pub or club are more trusting and satisfied with life, according to Australian research.
They have broader friendship and support networks than those without a regular watering hole, identify more closely with their community, and they make friends.
Only 6 per cent of people who identified as having a local said they drank there alone.
There is a significant gender divide among pub regulars: men are more likely to engage in more intimate conversations and women more likely to converse in larger groups.
The research involving a survey of 1200 people and detailed observations of 162 individuals in pubs and clubs was conducted by Dr Peter Jonason, a social-personality psychologist currently at the University of Western Sydney.
It was commissioned by beer giant Lion, and built on earlier findings in Britain by Dr Robin Dunbar.
And it raises a key social question: Are all these lifestyle benefits being lost as neighbourhood pubs and bars disappear?
“A local is a bar or club where one can buy alcohol, especially beer, and interact with others,” wrote Dr Jonason in his report Where Everyone Knows Your Name.
“Research on what people think a local is suggests it is a place close to where one lives
or works (thus the nomenclature), a place where there are people one knows including staff (thus the title of our project), is a central meeting place, a convenient location, and has good, quality beer.”
Men are likely to suffer as more neighbourhood pubs close, robbing them of places for intimate conversations.
“These conversations are likely essential to maintaining their psychological health and sense of connectedness to the community,” according to the research.
“Intimate conversations vis-à-vis the size of the groups observed were more likely in rural as opposed to metro locations.
“And it appears that women may not be using their bar experiences as much for intimate interactions as men because group size increases in women compared to men who are in their locals.”
The report also raised the issue of overall alcohol consumption by regular drinkers.
“Overall, we found that those with locals consumed more alcohol (around seven drinks per week) than those who did not, but they had greater life satisfaction, and were not less psychologically healthy overall than those without a local,” said the findings.
“(The) strongest effect for having a local was in reference to alcohol consumption; an effect largely created by the fact that those who did not have a local were more likely to be non-drinkers as well.
“This is unsurprising given that a central function of locals is the role they serve in providing access to alcohol. While relatively weaker, the remaining effects still affirm the point that having a local is associated with (1) more life satisfaction, (2) greater overlap with
one’s community, and (3) more interpersonal trust.”
It concluded: “There is a long and honoured tradition in Australia for going down to the ‘local’ bar for a drink to socialise and relax with friends.
“Arguably the motivation for most patrons of locals is not to abuse alcohol, but instead, to seek out social support.”
Malcolm Farr is national political editor of news.com.au. Continue the conversation @farrm51