Study: The Kind of Alcohol that Leads People to Make the Worst Decisions

Waking up naked in the park with a fresh tattoo that you don’t remember getting doesn’t just happen for no reason. Nope, that takes booze. Copious amounts of booze.

You know how they say, “everything happens for a reason…” (But sometimes that reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions.) Well, that may be true, but other times that reason is that you were drunk.

Fortunately, new research has provided us with some insights into which alcohol is most likely to cause you to make those bad decisions.

For this study, the team at surveyed thousands of people who had been drunk at least one time in the last year. They determined patterns in the behaviours of the intoxicated people, the consequences of their drinking, and their choice of alcohol.


The results showed that tequila drinkers reported the most common hangovers, followed by vodka and wine. Only one in 10 people said that they got their worst hangovers from beer, and less than three per cent said that they had them from scotch. (They separated Scotch drinkers from general whisky drinkers. Those sophisticates sipping scotch are apparently far less likely to get hangovers or wind up naked or in jail than general whisky drinkers.)

Alcohols that gave study participants the worst hangovers

    Tequila 23 per cent
    Vodka 21 per cent
    Wine 17 per cent
    Whisky 15 per cent
    Beer 10 per cent
    Scotch 2 per cent

You can read the science of hangovers – and how to avoid them – here.

Waking up naked in public

Alcohol can diminish our cognitive capacity, making it much more difficult for intoxicated people to make fully rational decisions. Which perhaps explains why over a third of participants in this survey claimed that they had woken up naked after a night of drinking.

Seven hundred and seventy-two (772) out of the over 2,000 participants said that they had woken up nude in public because of alcohol.

While beer doesn’t cause the most hangovers, it does lead to some poor decisions. Of those who lost their clothes while drunk, three-quarters polled said they had been drinking beer the night before. More than a third indicated that it had happened to them after drinking too much vodka, while nearly one in four said that it happened to them after binging on too much wine.

These numbers do not add up to 100 per cent, because drunk people can’t count. (No, actually it’s because before taking off all their clothes in public, most drunks have consumed more than one kind of alcohol.)

What participants were drinking before getting naked

    Beer 76 per cent
    Vodka 35 per cent
    Wine 24 per cent
    Tequila 23 per cent
    Rum 20 per cent
    Whisky 18 per cent
    Scotch 2 per cent

Getting tattooed

You shouldn’t get a tattoo while drunk. It’s a permanent mark on your skin, and the decision should be taken seriously. And no professional tattoo artist should work on someone who is obviously drunk. But apparently people do.

According to this survey, more than four in five people who admitted to getting tattoos while drinking said that it was beer that got them in the chair. More than two in five reported that they had been drinking vodka before getting inked.

In trouble with the law

Beer drinkers were also by far the most likely to be charged with DUI or to wake up in jail after a night out. (Although when separated by gender, women were more often caught over the limit behind the wheel after drinking wine.)

Alcohol doesn’t change your personality

It might seem all this booze is causing people to act in ways that are contrary to their sober personalities. However, a scientific study published earlier this spring found that people’s characters don’t actually change when they are intoxicated.

Onlookers watching drunk people noted that there was little difference between our ‘sober’ and our ‘drunk’ personalities – even though we might feel that they are dramatically different.

The only element of the personality that seems to be affected by alcohol is extraversion. People become more open and outgoing, but otherwise they were essentially unchanged by the affects of alcohol.

    “We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers’ perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them”, said psychological scientist Rachel Winograd (yes, that is her real name) of the University of Missouri, who led the research. “Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of the Five Factor Model of personality, but extraversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions.”

So essentially, if you’ve woken up naked in the park with a new tattoo, you probably wanted to take your clothes off or get inked, but you allowed your logical sober thought to rationalize you out of it. Alcohol just lowered your inhibitions and diminished your ability to calculate the pros and cons.

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