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WELL, THIS IS A SHOCKER . . . New research from Oxford University has found that regularly going to your local pub makes you happier, healthier and more sociable.  Previous research has shown that face-to-face meetings are vital to maintaining friendships, but the beneficial role that pubs have in this has now been measured for the first time.  Friends on Tap, the study funded by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), shows that people who frequent local bars near where they live or work tend to have more close friends.  According to the report, pubs help to provide a strong social network that improves happiness and overall health.  “Making and maintaining friendships is something that has to be done face-to-face – the digital world is simply no substitute”, the report’s author, Professor Robin Dunbar, said.  Furthermore, researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford found that smaller “community style” spots are better than larger bars for maintaining more close friends.  While people who regularly go to big venues tend to have a larger social circle, they have fewer close friends than drinkers that frequent small local pubs, they stated.

The study makes a strong (an undoubtedly controversial) claim, saying that moderate alcohol intake has physical and mental health benefits.  “A limited alcohol intake improves wellbeing and some 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”, a statement accompanying the report said.  Researchers defined a “local pub” as being where the respondent knows the landlord and other customers personally.  CAMRA chief executive Tim Page said, “Pubs offer a social environment to enjoy a drink with friends in a responsible, supervised community setting.  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.”  Words to live by.  So get off of Facebook and go have a drink at the bar down the street!