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19 November 2018, 07:56
A new study suggests people living in cold climates with less sunlight are more likely to drink heavily.
The US research establishes a link between average temperature and hours of sunlight and alcohol consumption.
Examining data from 193 countries, the group found evidence that climate contributed to a higher incidence of binge drinking and liver disease.
Senior author Ramon Bataller, associate director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Centre, said: "This is the first study that systematically demonstrates that worldwide and in America, in colder areas and areas with less sun, you have more drinking and more alcoholic cirrhosis."
Alcohol is a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and increasing the flow of warm blood to the skin.
Drinking also is linked to depression, which tends to be more prevalent when sunlight is scarce.
The study, published online in Hepatology, used data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organisation.
Dr Peter McCann, medical adviser to Castle Craig Hospital, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in the Scottish Borders, contributed to the report.
He said: "We now have new evidence that the weather, and in particular the temperature and amount of sunlight that we are exposed to, has a strong influence on how much alcohol we consume.
"Furthermore this weather-related alcohol consumption is directly linked to our chances of developing the most dangerous form of liver disease - cirrhosis - which can ultimately end in liver failure and death."
He added: "Stricter laws on alcohol pricing are surely justified when we consider the devastating combined effect of low sunlight and cheaper alcohol on consumption.
"Advertising laws should be addressed with restrictions during winter months strongly considered."
Evidence of the climate link comes as the WHO presents new data on alcohol consumption in Europe at a summit in Edinburgh on Monday.
It says levels remain high and that almost half of the adult male population are at risk of both short and long-term health and social problems due to harmful drinking patterns.
Earlier this year, legislation on minimum pricing for alcohol came into force in Scotland in a bid to tackle problem drinking.