A new study found an unexpected link between regular alcohol drinking and affective empathy.
According to the study, people tend to drink more alcohol whenever they feel more affective empathy (which is based on shared emotional experiences) than normal.
Even after correcting for daily variations in happy and negative emotions, this link persisted.
In order to understand patterns of alcohol use, the study underlines the need to comprehend daily fluctuations in emotional empathy.
In other words, on the days when affective empathy levels are greater than usual, people frequently drink more.
The daily fluctuations in emotional states did not account for the association between affective empathy and alcohol consumption.
Affective empathy may be more important in influencing alcohol use since cognitive empathy was not substantially associated with alcohol use.
According to the research published in Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, people were more inclined to drink more than normal if they said they felt more emotional empathy on a particular day than was customary for them.
Notably, even after adjusting for daily changes in happy and negative emotions, these alterations in affective empathy levels were linked to the amount of alcohol ingested.
This suggests that changes in emotional states were not responsible for the link between affective empathy and alcohol usage.
Overall, the results suggest that it may be crucial to understand how a person’s affective empathy fluctuates on a daily basis in order to comprehend their overall alcohol usage.
Researchers wanted to know how two aspects of empathy can influence someone’s decision to drink.
Researchers specifically looked at two types of empathy: affective empathy, which is the capacity to experience another person’s emotions, and cognitive empathy, which is the capacity to comprehend another person’s viewpoint or emotional state.
This study concentrated on state empathy, the variability in one’s empathy in response to everyday interpersonal contacts, in contrast to previous research, which has largely focused on trait empathy (which is one’s overall inclination to demonstrate empathy across settings).
In order to quantify adult alcohol drinkers’ emotional and cognitive empathy in reaction to certain social encounters and how much good and bad feelings they were experiencing, researchers gave them questions to answer on their phones at various points during the day.
The amount of alcohol consumed during that day was another question the participants were required to answer.
According to the study, people drank more on days when their state affective empathy levels were higher than usual.
Additionally, individuals were less likely to drink on a particular day if their positive affect was higher.
Negative affect didn’t impact alcohol consumption, but when day-level state positive affect grew, people were more inclined to consume more alcohol.
Notably, no correlations between day-level state cognitive empathy and alcohol use were found, indicating that affective empathy may be more crucial in explaining alcohol use.
These results on state affective empathy are in contrast to earlier research, which revealed that lower trait empathy is linked to higher alcohol consumption and issues.
The researchers hypothesized that the conflicting results might be brought on by variations in the methods used to measure empathy.
Instead of completing questionnaires on their usual empathy, as done in other research, participants reported on their empathy levels in real-time and related to particular social encounters.
Future studies, according to the experts, are necessary to further validate the results, however.
Further research should examine processes and individual difference variables that may influence the relationship between higher state affective empathy and higher alcohol consumption, according to the authors, who also pointed out that the study’s limitations included a racially homogenous sample group and a short protocol length.