The research found that 45% of respondents stated that they drank in a pub on a regular basis. However only 22% of people surveyed said that they had a regular ‘local’ – one particular pub that they habitually visited and where they knew the landlord and other customers on a personal basis.
The report, entitled Friends on Tap – the role of pubs at the heart of the community and written by Professor Robin Dunbar for the Campaign for Real Ale, outlines that having a strong social network significantly improves both your happiness and your overall health. The more people you know and the more often you see them, the better you feel and the healthier you are, states the report.
According to the report, respondents to a survey reported that they sere most likely to drink alcohol in their own home with friends (57%), with the second most common location being in a pub with food – 41% of drinkers say that this is a place that they regularly consume alcohol.
“It is worth noting that they regarded a pub as a relatively safe place to drink (and avoid binge-drinking),” states the report, “Respondents identified a pub as the best place to socialize with friends (32%) after their own or a friend’s house (40%).”
Face-to-face meetings are absolutely vital to maintaining friendships because these are particularly susceptible to decay over time.
Given the integral role of pubs in providing a venue in which to meet people and build up friendships, Professor Dunbar undertook a series of studies which found that:
People who have a ‘local’ and those patronising community-type pubs have more close friends on whom they can call for support and are happier and more trusting of others than those who do not have a local. They also feel more engaged with their wider community
While 40% of people in the UK now typically socialise with friends in someone’s home, a third of the population prefer to do so in pubs and regard pubs as a safe place to meet friends
Almost a quarter of the UK population declared that they had a ‘local’ that they patronised regularly; their ‘local’ was characteristically close to where they lived or worked
A combination of convenience and knowing they would meet friends were the two most important factors promoting people to visit a particular pub regularly. Knowing the staff comes a close third in the listings, perhaps suggesting that, in addition, the ambience of the pub itself may be important.
Those who were casual visitors to the pub and those in larger pubs scored themselves as having consumed significantly more alcohol than those drinking in their ‘local’ or smaller community pubs
A pub is more likely to be seen as someone’s ‘local’ if it’s close to where they live or work
People in city centre bars may be in larger social groups than those in more community-oriented pubs but they are less engaged with those with whom they are associating and have significantly shorter conversations.
“Friendship and community are probably the two most important factors influencing our health and wellbeing,” commented Professor Dunbar, “Making and maintaining friendships, however, is something that has to be done face-to-face: the digital world is simply no substitute. Given the increasing tendency for our social life to be online rather than face-to-face, having relaxed accessible venues where people can meet old friends and make new ones becomes ever-more necessary.”
The report concludes with a series of recommendations to government, publicans and city planners in order to keep more pubs open and accessible to people across the country.
England’s pub population continues to fall albeit more slowly than heretofore. There were 73,421 pubs in England and Wales In 1951. Within 20 years this had fallen to 64,087. By 2014 this figure had reduced further to 51,904.