A mountain of evidence shows how excessive alcohol is bad for your health, but what about research backing the health benefits of drinking? According to a new study, the act of socializing with your friends in a drinking setting may actually benefit your mental health — as long as you limit the tequila shots.

The study found that people who regularly visit a specific bar tend to feel more socially engaged and contented, and are more likely to trust other members of their community. On the other hand, the individuals without a local or favorite bar had significantly smaller social networks and felt less engaged with, and trusting of, their local communities. What’s more, those who drank at local bars tended to socialize in smaller groups, which encouraged whole-group conversation. Individuals who drank at larger city-center bars tended to be in much larger groups, and participated much less in group conversation. Ultimately, our social networks provide us with the single most important buffer against mental and physical illness.

Read: 5 Majors Organs That Are Being Destroyed By Your Alcohol Consumption

“This study showed that frequenting a local pub can directly affect people's' social network size and how engaged they are with their local community, which in turn can affect how satisfied they feel in life,” explained Robin Dunbar, a researcher involved with the study, in a recent statement.

According to the researchers, the combination of a public setting and the endorphin-releasing qualities of alcohol can produce very pleasant feelings and promote wellbeing.

Although alcohol can be dangerous, and this study doesn't change that fact, the researchers suggest that if you are going to drink, it's better to be done responsibly in a supervised pub setting than to engage in the activity on your own.

However, if you view this research as an excuse to go out with your friends every night, think again. The social benefits of drinking do not outweigh the physical dangers of engaging in the activity too heavy or too often. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to a number of health problems, including liver disease, a number of cancers, learning and memory problems, and depression and anxiety.

Source: Dunbar RIM, Luanay J, Wlodarski R, et al. Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption. Adaptive Human Behavior and Psychology . 2017

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