Day Drinking by the Numbers
Although social drinking often occurs at night, American's alcohol consumption is hardly confined to the evening hours. From holidays synonymous with all-day drinking, to the infamous "hair of the dog" hangover cure (more injurious than effective), people find plenty of reasons to imbibe while it's still light outside. No matter the hour, however, heavy drinking can result in real consequences. When individuals elect to indulge in the daytime, do they later regret their decision?
We determined to study day drinking experiences, surveying roughly 1,000 men and women about how often they consume alcohol during the day and what typically happens when they do. From unanticipated hookups to brutal hangovers, our findings present day drinking's definite downsides. We also explored the contexts in which people drink during the day, and how much they consume across a range of scenarios. To discover what really goes down when people drink in the daylight, you'll want to keep reading.
Spirits in the Sun
Drinking during the day seems to demand a different selection of beverages than nighttime consumption. Indeed, champagne was the top day drinking selection among our respondents, whereas wine ranked first overall for drinking in the evening. This daytime trend might be explained by the widespread popularity of boozy brunches, in which mimosas play a prominent role. Similarly, vodka was the third-ranked form of alcohol for day drinking, perhaps because it's the main ingredient in brunch cocktails such as the bloody mary.
Beer was also a popular daytime drinking choice, likely because of its deep association with watching sports on weekends – whether at the stadium or on one's couch. Tequila's presence on the daytime list was somewhat more surprising, although it does feature prominently in frozen drinks one might consume at the beach or by the pool. Conversely, rum and whiskey were favored in the nighttime. The same was true of hard cider: While the beverage is becoming increasingly popular among American consumers, its appeal still seems limited to the nighttime.
Daytime Drinking: Consumption and Context
For some, drinking during the day is a strikingly common occurrence. Twenty-nine percent of men and 19 percent of women said they drank in the daytime every week. In this regard, a difference emerged between the genders, with men significantly more likely to day drink at least once a month. This finding resonates with other research about the propensity of men to engage in risky drinking: American males are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder over the course of their lifetimes. Indeed, 10 percent of women said they day drank less than once a year, whereas just 5 percent of men said the same.
Men and women seemed to indulge differently in various settings as well. Male respondents tended to day drink most heavily at the beach and concert venues, consuming eight or more drinks on average in those locations. Women, by contrast, drank nearly seven drinks, on average, at hotels and resorts. This finding might relate to the way in which alcohol plays a significant role in many spa experiences marketed primarily to women. At many luxurious retreats, the mani-pedi includes a steady stream of champagne.
Day and Night Drink Counts
Whether they preferred drinking during the day or at night, men outpaced women in terms of consumption – possibly women tend to feel the effects of intoxication after fewer drinks than their male counterparts. Indeed, men consumed 6.5 drinks, on average, whether they preferred drinking during the day or at night. Conversely, female day drinkers tended to consume 4.8 drinks in a single sitting, and female respondents who preferred evening drinking had just 3.3. Interestingly, experts suggest the drinking gender gap is steadily shrinking, with women's consumption patterns nearing those of men in recent years.
In every region, however, those who preferred day drinking consumed alcohol in greater quantities than those who liked to drink at night. In some regions, the disparity was particularly apparent: Southerners who drank during the day had 6.5 drinks, on average, whereas the South's nighttime drinkers had just 3.9 drinks in each setting. One explanation for this finding might be in football tailgating culture. Many southern colleges are renown for their boozy pre-game festivities: By the time the game ends, day drinking has been going on for hours.
Afternoon Delight – After Drinking?
It's no secret that alcohol can sometimes contribute to unplanned intimacy; with lowered inhibitions, hookups are quite common. But does this dynamic hold true in the daytime as well as at night? While 26 percent of respondents experienced a casual sex encounter after drinking during the day, 56 said they hooked up following a night of drinking. In both cases, however, those who hooked up with someone consumed significantly more drinks on average than those who did not.
Hookups: Timing and Alcohol Type
Among day drinkers who experienced a hookup, rum was the top drink choice. For those who drank and hooked up at night, vodka was the poison they picked most often. Interestingly, the top drinks among day drinkers who hooked up differed from the favorite drinks of day drinkers more generally. champagne, for example, was the drink of choice among day drinkers but did not rank particularly highly among day drinkers who experienced casual sex in the daytime. Perhaps after a big brunch and a couple of mimosas, individuals are more inclined to nap – without a partner.
When day drinkers did hook up, however, it was most often with a friend – an event that can certainly complicate the existing relationship. Conversely, nighttime drinking seemed more conducive to hooking up with a stranger. After all, potential pickup scenes like bars and clubs are primarily nighttime venues. In a surprising twist, however, daytime hookups were more likely to involve co-workers. Are these trysts occurring after boozy events held at work, or among professionals who socialize outside the office during the day?
Hookup Behavior, by Gender
When we segmented our results by gender, men were far more likely to sleep with a stranger, whether drinking during the day or at night. This finding supports several other studies suggesting men are more open to sex with strangers, perhaps because women have greater safety concerns about going home with someone they don't know. Conversely, a higher percentage of women's hookups occurred with acquaintances or friends after drinking, regardless of when they did their drinking.
Of course, some relationships are more clearly aimed at intimacy: Among nighttime drinkers who hooked up with someone, 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men said their partner was a date. Don't expect booze to fast-track real romance, however. Experts warn that getting too tipsy will prevent real intimacy from developing – not to mention getting sloppy might turn a potential suitor off entirely. Day drinking hookups were significantly less likely to involve people on a date. Just 7 percent of men and 6 percent of women who hooked up after day drinking slept with a date.
Hangover Culprits and Quantities
Among those who drank by day, wine drinkers were the most likely to incur a painful consequence: a serious hangover. Experts offer various explanations for wine's headache-inducing properties, such as the chemical tyramine and other naturally occurring contents. Interestingly, vodka ranked second in terms of hangover likelihood among day drinkers, despite evidence suggesting light-colored liquors may cause less intense hangovers than darker drinks such as whiskey. Champagne ranked third, perhaps because the yeast required for carbonation increases the sugar and alcohol concentration (both hangover causes).
Beer was also a top day drinking hangover culprit: While its alcohol concentration is typically lower than that of wine or liquor, our respondents consumed it in the largest quantities on average. Those who drank whiskey or tequila had nearly as many drinks on average, so it's no wonder that the majority of folks who consumed these liquors experienced a hangover. Interestingly, day drinkers who consumed rum had fewer drinks, on average, than individuals who drank other forms of hard alcohol, knocking back 6.7 servings.
Day Drinking, Drunk Driving?
Drunk driving is unacceptably dangerous at any hour, but our respondents were far less likely to operate a vehicle under the influence during the daytime. Only 29 percent of individuals reported driving drunk after a day drinking experience, whereas 43 percent said they drove drunk at night. This finding confirms the warnings of safety watchdogs, who caution that drunk driving occurs most often between midnight and 3 a.m. on weekends. Alcohol isn't the only hazard during this timeframe, however: Many people driving late at night are using marijuana, or both substances simultaneously.
Day drinkers who did get behind the wheel intoxicated, however, typically consumed larger quantities of alcohol than those who drove drunk at night. In fact, nighttime drunk drivers had just 4.5 drinks, on average, before attempting to drive, whereas daytime drunk drivers tended to be nearly seven drinks deep before taking the wheel. Because the liver can only process approximately one drink per hour, the evening would likely arrive before individuals drinking that much alcohol could drive safely again. Day or night, arranging a designated driver or alternative transportation is prudent if you plan to drink.
Drinking Responsibly, Regardless of Timing
Our findings suggest that day drinking occurs quite often across the country, with men and women indulging at various rates and with varied consequences. And while day drinkers may opt for different kinds of liquors or prefer particular venues, the basic dynamics of risk and responsibility remain unchanged. At any time of the day, heavy drinking can result in negative outcomes, ranging from the temporary (a hangover) to the permanent (legal trouble). If you're accustomed to drinking at night, don't put aside your usual precautions simply because the sun is shining.
If you're struggling to control your drinking habits, however, alcohol may come to consume ever-greater quantities of your time. Once dependence takes root, whole days and nights can be lost to liquor. If you or someone you love is confronting these difficult circumstances, the team at Alcohol.org can aid you on your path to recovery. Hope lies in effective treatment, and we're here to help you find it – at any hour, day or night.
We surveyed 1,004 people living in the U.S. who drank regularly and consumed alcohol during the day. 529 of respondents were men, 474 were women, and one respondent selected a nonbinary gender. The median age of respondents was 33 with a minimum of 18 and maximum of 76.
Participants who did not drink alcohol and never consumed alcohol during the day were excluded. We used an attention-check question to make sure all respondents were paying attention and thoughtfully answering our questions. If a participant failed to answer the attention check correctly, they were excluded. In addition, any participants who were clearly not paying attention were also excluded from our analysis.
This survey relies on self-reporting. There are some issues with self-reported data that could include selective memory, attribution, telescoping, and exaggeration. We suggest more research should be done on this topic to make deeper conclusions from the data.