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ScienceShot: Why Men Dominate Happy Hour

20 December 2013 2:45 pm
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ScienceShot: Why Men Dominate Happy Hour

demi/Creative Commons

Men and women don’t respond the same way to stress, at least when it comes to hitting the bottle. In a new study, researchers turned their laboratory into a bar where undergraduates could drink beer or wine at leisure. They asked half the students to perform a stressful task, crossing out the letter “e” in a series of texts that were subject to increasingly complex rules and required a lot of self-control. The other half performed the simplest version of the crossing-out-letter task, where they just had to cross out any instances of “e” they saw in the texts. Men drank four times more alcohol than the women did after performing the stressful task, the team reports on 11 December in Addiction. What’s more, the stressed-out women drank even less alcohol than the women who performed the easy task. The scientists believe that blood glucose provides the necessary energy to maintain self-control under stress, but once the stressed-out men’s glucose resources depleted, they could no longer maintain their self-control and drank more. As for the women, the team posits that they are naturally less tempted by alcohol than men, making their attitude toward alcohol a built-in drinking deterrent. All is not lost for stressed-out men, however. The scientists found that if the male volunteers kept track of how many drinks they drank, they more than halved their alcoholic intake.

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