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Going to the pub is good for you

New research from Oxford University today reveals that people who have a ‘local’ pub are not only significantly happier than those who do not, but also have higher life satisfaction and have more close friends.

The report (which you can download here), written by Professor Robin Dunbar for CAMRA outlines that having a strong social network significantly improves both your happiness and your overall health. The more people you know, and the more often you see them, the better you feel and the healthier you are.

Face-to-face meetings are absolutely vital to maintaining friendships, because these are particularly susceptible to decay over time. Given the integral role of pubs in providing a venue to meet people and build up friendships, Professor Dunbar undertook a series of studies which found that:

  • People who have a ‘local’ and those patronising community-type pubs have more close friends on whom they can call for support, and are happier and more trusting of others than those who do not have a local. They also feel more engaged with their wider community
  • Those who were casual visitors to the pub, and those in larger pubs, scored themselves as having consumed significantly more alcohol than those drinking in their “local” or smaller community pubs
  • A pub is more likely to be seen as someone’s ‘local’ if it is close to where they live or work
  • People in city centre bars may be in larger social groups than those in more community-oriented pubs, but they are less engaged with those with whom they are associating and have significantly shorter conversations
  • A limited alcohol intake improves wellbeing and some (though not all) social skills, just as it has been shown to improve other cognitive abilities and health, but these abilities decline as alcohol intake increases beyond a moderate level


Professor Robin Dunbar, Oxford University, says: “Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and wellbeing. Making and maintaining friendships, however, is something that has to be done face-to-face: the digital world is simply no substitute. Given the increasing tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed accessible venues where people can meet old friends and make new ones becomes ever more necessary.”

Tim Page, CAMRA Chief Executive, says: “Whilst we are delighted that such robust research highlights some of the many benefits of visiting a pub, I hardly expect the findings will be a great surprise to CAMRA members! Pubs offer a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends in a responsible, supervised community setting. Nothing is more significant for individuals, the social groupings to which they belong and the country as a whole as our personal and collective wellbeing. The role of community pubs in ensuring that wellbeing cannot be overstated. For that reason, we all need to do what we can to ensure that everyone has a ‘local’ near to where they live or work.”

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to Government, publicans and city planners in order to keep more pubs open and accessible to people across the country.