Pitt study looks at correlation between cold weather, drinking rates

PITTSBURGH — The cold weather in Pittsburgh makes some people bundle up before heading out the door; others will double check for icy conditions on the road. A new study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests it also might be making people drink more.

Pittsburgh ranks as one of the top ten best cities for beer drinkers in America. Smart Asset says there are 36 bars per 10,000 residents in the city. That might have something to do with all this winter weather. Doctor Ramon Bataller of UPMC's hepatology department says his team decided to look at why that is.

"We assume the colder it is in Wisconsin, in Russia, people drink more," he said. "But we were surprised that nobody has studied that."

His team looked at countries across the world and each county across America. Pretty soon, a common trend emerged; cold weather cities have higher rates of drinking. Some of the reasons may seem obvious.


"We think that on one hand, alcohol gives you, increases the sensation of warmth," Bataller said.

The cold also makes you change your daily habits.

"In the cold weather, you don't go out as often," Bataller said.

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The study accounted for outside factors like religious beliefs prohibiting alcohol use and health issues like obesity that can bring out liver-related diseases.

Researchers believe a lack of light also contributes to more drinking and depression.

Channel 11 just told you in December that Pittsburgh ranks fourth among major cities for the number of cloudy days a year. The study found that areas with cooler, darker areas have a higher prevalence of binge-drinking and alcohol related diseases. That worries researchers.

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"We are seeing younger and younger patients with alcohol cirrhosis and it's a public health issue here in the Pittsburgh area," Bataller said.

He says that was a major reason behind the research. His team is committed to help patients fight alcohol addiction. They are already onto the next question.

"We are doing a follow up study seeing whether Vitamin D deficiencies favor alcoholism," he said.

Doctor Bataller believes cities can use this information to create better programs to help end alcohol addiction. He says it starts with educating people about the outside factors that could be influencing how much they drink without even realizing it.