The National Science Foundation may consider sending breathalysers to the southern regions of the ‘frozen’ continent, after several reports found that contractors and scientists who work in Antarctica got into fights, and sometimes came drunk to work.
A report on health and safety, conducted by the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), found that over a period of 20 months, almost 60 people working in Antarctica had violated the USAP code of conduct.
One of the human resources (HR) managers stated in the report that about of 60 to 75 percent of the cases were linked to alcohol misuse.
The reason why heavy drinking habits are more common in cold places like Antarctica does not come as much of a surprise for scientists. According to experts, cold weather, boredom and an isolated environment, as well as other factors may sometimes lead to excess drinking.
Previous studies found that people who live in locations with colder and gloomier weather tend to indulge in more alcohol consumption, Nitika Garg, a consumer behaviour researcher and a senior marketing lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said.
“If it’s extremely cold, you feel worse emotionally, affectively, and that pushes you toward consumption that you find rewarding and hedonistic. For alcohol, it’s a double whammy,” Garg stated.
The reason why alcohol makes people feel warmer is because after consuming alcoholic beverages, the blood vessels widen which leads to blood rushing to the skin. However, people should know that although alcohol makes them feel physically warmer, it also makes them lose heat more easily. It is important to stay away from cold environments when consuming alcohol.
Researchers found that in the United States, people who live in warmer states tend to consume less alcohol, compared with people who live in states with colder weather.
According to Garg, other factors like religion and culture can influence drinking habits more than the climate does.
Boredom and isolation are two other things that may lead to more alcohol consumption, scientists say.
Even though Antarctica has superb landscapes and lovely fauna – such as adorable penguins and seals – most contractors working there never get the chance to leave the headquarters.
In a study published in the journal Behavioural Pharmacology, the researchers found that isolation in humans is linked to increased alcohol consumption.
However, boredom may lead to higher alcohol consumption than social isolation, Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center in California, said. When going on field trips that are held in extreme environments, people drink because sometimes they have nothing better to do – like work to focus on.
McKay said that when he conducts field trips, he makes sure that everyone is given a set of tasks that keeps them busy, so that no one gets bored.
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