Monday, October 9, 2023

What amount of wine intake maximizes happiness?

Presumably, we all want to be happy, to one extent or another; and many people have a glass of wine to help them achieve this desirable state. However, we also all know about the unhappy problems of “drinking too much”. So, where is the balance? In this post, I do some mathematical calculations to make a specific suggestion (an actual wine value).

I will work at the inter-national level, because that is the dataset that I currently have. Of course, this is a very coarse scale at which to work, but needs must. So, I will compare national wine consumption (average per person) with reported national happiness, for a range of countries, to find the simple relationship between these two things.

Total national wine consumption 2022

My national wine-consumption data come from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), who have produced a report on the State of the World Vine and Wine Sector in 2022. This lists the liters of wine consumed per capita, for those 22 countries that consumed at least 2 million hectoliters of wine in 2022 (as shown in the figure above).

This is standard stuff in the wine industry. However, how many of you have also heard of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report? This was also published in 2022; and reportedly:
is based on Gallup surveys where the population estimated their own perceived happiness. The list focuses on factors such as social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and lack of corruption.
You can read up on this set of surveys for yourselves, or you can consult my earlier blog post (Wine and world happiness). However, I wish to make a couple of things very clear about the combined final Happiness score for each of the countries. As you will notice in the following figure, showing the top 24 happiest countries: the Nordic countries occupy six of the top eight places (I currently live in Sweden),* with Australia (where I was born) at no. 12. I refuse to live in a country where the people are unhappy!

Estimated national happiness in 2022

Anyway, my objective here is to directly compare wine consumption with happiness, which I have done in the following scatterplot. Each point represents one of the 22 countries, based on both of its data values (consumption horizontally and happiness vertically). The curved line is the quadratic regression, showing the best—fit relationship between the two sets of data. This shows that the happiest people are those with middling wine consumption, rather than either of the two extremes.** This should surprise no-one. Moreover, wine seems to account for nearly 50% of the variation in happiness between countries!

The two pink lines show an average (personal) wine consumption of one bottle per week (on the right) and a half-bottle per week (on the left). The maximum happiness, as estimated from the regression line, is an average of 0.73 liters of wine per week. [NB: a standard wine bottle contains 0.75 liters.]

So, there you have it. Those of you consuming one bottle of wine per week are already doing as well as you can expect. Any less than this and you will be less happy; any more than this and you also risk being less happy. You should note, however, that the recommendation is somewhat less than the traditional: “a glass a day keeps the doctor away” (c. 70% of it, in fact).

As but one example, French prefer rosé to red wine tells us: “according to statistics from the Comite National des Interprofessions des Vins a Apellation D’Origine (CNIV), the average wine consumption [in France] is now 40 litres per person a year rather than 100 litres in 1975.” This change will have resulted in a great happiness improvement for the French!

Relationship of wine consumption and happiness

To me, this can form yet another argument in favor of continued wine consumption, against the current social attacks, where even moderate drinking is considered to be bad for your health (Is alcohol the new tobacco?). My distinction here is between mental health and bodily health — we need to produce more stories about how wine is part of a healthy lifestyle for our minds. This goes along with The Mondavi Defense (as presented by Tom Wark).

I freely admit that this is only an approximate data analysis, since it is at the scale of national averages. For example, the wine data do not account for variations in alcohol content; and nor do the happiness data account for within-country social variation, for example. However, if any of you know of any other way to do this, then I, for one, will be very happy to see the results. Of course, there are also other things that are related to happiness (6 things that make people happy according to scientists).

* You might also like to consult: The steady wine markets of Denmark and Sweden, which notes that “according to Wine Intelligence, there are more weekly wine drinkers in Sweden now than before the pandemic, making up 34% of the population.” If you want to pursue the topic of the cultural differences within the Nordic region, then take a look at The Geography Bible video on: What if the Nordic countries united? (There is also a video about What are the world's happiest and unhappiest countries?)

** In spite of the curvature, this is what is called a “linear effect”. Non-linear effects occur very rapidly, almost in the blink of an eye. A classic example is the recent effects of Climate Change (Why are climate impacts escalating so quickly?).

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