From Our 2008 Archives

Loud Bar Music Makes You Drink More

Researchers Say Bar Patrons Drink More and Faster When the Music Is Loud

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

July 18, 2008 — Loud music may be just the sound track to drown your sorrows by.

It's probably no secret to bar owners, but a French study shows that turning up the volume on the music can speed up the drinking at the bar. Researchers found loud music correlated with increased alcohol consumption and shortened the amount of time it took for bar patrons to empty their glasses.

"Previous research had shown that fast music can cause fast drinking, and that music versus no music can cause a person to spend more time in a bar," researcher Nicolas Gueguen, a professor of behavioral sciences at the Universite de Bretagne-Sud in France, says in a news release. "This is the first time that an experimental approach in a real context found the effects of loud music on alcohol consumption."

"We have shown that environmental music played in a bar is associated with an increase in drinking," Gueguen says. "We need to encourage bar owners to play music at more of a moderate level ... and make consumers aware that loud music can influence their alcohol consumption."

Loud Music Prompts More Drinking

In the study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers observed 40 young male beer drinkers in two bars in a city in western France over the course of three Saturday evenings.

With the bar owners' permission, researchers manipulated the sound levels between 72 decibels (considered typical) and 88 decibels (considered high) of the top 40 songs playing in the bar and then selected random males who ordered beer at the bar to observe.

After each participant left the bar, sound levels were again manipulated and another random drinker observed.

The results showed a correlation between loud music and the tendency of bar patrons to drink more and drink their beers faster. When the music was loud, bar patrons ordered an average of 3.4 drinks and took less than 11.5 minutes to finish a glass of beer compared with an average of 2.6 drinks and 14.5 minutes to finish a drink when the music was at normal levels.

Researchers offer two explanations for the association between drinking habits and loud music.

"One, in agreement with previous research on music, food, and drink, high sound levels may have caused higher arousal, which led the subjects to drink faster and to order more drinks," Gueguen says. "Two, loud music may have had a negative effect on social interaction in the bar, so that patrons drank more because they talked less."

SOURCES: Gueguen, N. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, October 2008; vol 32. News release, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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