Editors' note: Prof. Claus-Christian Carbon is an academic at the University of Bamberg, Germany, with an interest in the social aspects of beer. He is also an executive member of the European Beer Consumers Union. This article is on the important but often missed distinction between health and wellbeing in how beer is discussed.
I am a psychologist by training, working in the field of sensation and perception as a Full Professor at the University of Bamberg in Bavaria, Germany. Sensation and perception are mostly investigated in the visual domain, but I sometimes include the senses of taste and smell, so beer is a perfect research arena to get insights into the whole experience of sensation and perception. Beer is typically consumed in groups, with good friends, family members, dear colleagues, or, your beloved partner. This type of gathering together is essential for social cohesion, good conversation and not to forget, wellbeing. Wellbeing is much more than just health, although health issues should never be ignored when talking about wellbeing. To start a productive discussion and campaign for wellbeing, we need to know the facts about health issues. This is why I also openly present the downsides of beer consumption, in order to honestly discuss and experience the positive sides of wellbeing.
Health is only a part of wellbeing, and if we only focus on this part of wellbeing, we won’t easily develop sustainable wellbeing. We saw this with Covid-19: it was definitely an important behaviour to protect yourself within the pandemic but if you ignore wellbeing in the long term, by preventing all kinds of social activities, you will still stay healthy but you won’t experience joy, jollity and social cohesion.
Beer shows some undeniably good basic ingredients, especially when ecologically produced and sustainably processed. Even the calories are not that high compared with standard soft drinks.
Beer also comes, at least in the standard alcoholic variant, with relatively low alcohol levels, but recommendations from science, in order to prevent some primary and secondary diseases, make clear we should limit our drinking behaviour. For women, the consumption levels are even lower. To scan and critically reflect one’s weekly drinking habits is an important step to prevent alcohol dependency and the risk of some severe diseases which are well documented.
There are short, medium and long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption which should always be taken very seriously. In the long run, we cannot escape from some of these effects if we do not take care.
However, if we only focus on health issues, we will ignore the important dimension of wellbeing, which is also a part of beer consumption. Wellbeing is psychologically routed and makes life worth living.