Are craft beer drinkers healthier than other kinds of drinkers? According to a recent poll, it seems that’s the case. But why?
When doctors, nutritionists and fitness trainers refer to healthy habits, they’re talking about activities and lifestyle choices that intrinsically make you healthier. That’s a no-brainer. Riding your bike to work every day, going to the gym four times a week, and eating a low-fat diet are all healthy habits. No matter what kind of pretzel logic you use, drinking beer is not a healthy habit.
Or is it?
A nationwide poll, conducted recently by a well-regarded research group, revealed that people who favor craft beer over other alcoholic beverages live healthier lifestyles than their non-craft counterparts. The poll, conducted by The Harris Poll, uncovered some interesting facts. See it.
It all starts with a healthier approach to drinking. The poll revealed that craft beer fans are more likely to consider beer a special treat, or an indulgence, and are therefore more likely to drink alcohol only on weekends or special occasions.
According to the survey, 80 percent of craft beer drinkers between the ages of 21 and 34 consider beer a treat (77 percent of those between 35 and 44). Of craft beer drinkers between the ages of 21 and 34, 60 percent say they only drink it on the weekends. According to the poll, those who favor other types of alcohol are less likely to think of their drinking habits that way.
The next thought-provoking conclusion, of those surveyed, 80 percent of craft beer drinkers consider themselves to be health conscious. Fewer non-craft imbibers consider themselves to be health conscious.
Furthermore, craft brew drinkers are more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle activities compared to the average beer/wine/spirits drinker. More than half (57 percent) of craft beer drinkers say they stay healthy by exercising several times per week. Again, that number is lower among non-craft imbibers.
According to the poll, 40 percent of craft brew drinkers say they prefer group exercise over sweating it out alone. You can see it around you. We recently did a story about Beer + Yoga, a program offered by Just Add Yoga that combines beer with exercise at breweries. This year’s Washington Brewers Festival included a 5k Beer Run. Physical activity, group exercise, and craft beer are not mutually exclusive.
As for other healthy habits, it should come as no surprise that over one quarter of craft beer drinkers say they regularly seek out food and beverages made locally. Other ways craft drinkers outpace their non-craft counterparts, they are more likely to read nutritional labels, more likely to consider caloric intake when drinking or eating, and more likely to take a break from their drinking habit.
Are Craft Drinkers Actually Healthier?
When you give any large crowd of people the eyeball test, it is easy to recognize that obesity is rampant in our fast-food, soda-fueled society. Seriously, just look around; America is fat. This is not news.
I am guessing that, in general, much fewer than 57 percent of Americans say that they exercise several times per week. Likewise, I assume that much fewer than 80 percent say that they are health conscious. As of 2010, more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults in America are overweight and more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults qualify as obese. *
If the America public, as a whole, reported the kind of numbers The Harris Poll reported about craft beer drinkers, obesity and other weight-related health problems would not have reached epidemic levels in America. Two-thirds of us would not be overweight or obese if 80 percent of us were health conscious.
From that, I draw the unscientific conclusion that craft beer drinkers are healthier than average Americans. I understand that the poll only compared craft beer drinkers to other types of drinkers, but given the numbers the poll revealed, I think it is reasonable to say that craft beer enthusiasts are a healthy subset of American society. True, they’re not as healthy as some other, smaller subsets, like marathon runners, rock climbers, or teetotaling fitness trainers, but they are healthier than American society as a whole.
What’s Does This Mean?
To some extent, I find all of this very easy to believe. I know that I am painting in broad brushstrokes, and that there are probably plenty of non-craft drinkers who are very health conscious, but I am commenting on what a nationwide poll revealed.
Consider the things that craft drinkers appreciate about the beers they love. They appreciate natural, non-processed ingredients. They appreciate flavor and quality over volume and price. They like local, fresh, handmade beer (handmade by comparison). They shun big-production beers from mega breweries. The Harris Poll concluded that these preferences carry over into other lifestyle choices.
It’s easy to imagine that craft beer drinker appreciate the same virtues in the food they eat. To use analogies, Budweiser is like the McDonalds of the beer world. To craft beer drinkers, a 22-ounce bottle of Imperial Stout is like a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese; everyone loves it, but craft beer drinkers are more likely to recognize that they shouldn’t eat a pizza for lunch every day.
To really dumb-down my point, a craft beer enthusiast might order a Chef Salad to go with an IPA, whereas a non-craft beer drinker might order a Super-Sized Double Quarter Pounder meal to go with a Bud Light. Craft lovers are more likely to shop for fresh ingredients at the local farmers market; non-craft drinkers are more likely to stock up on frozen burritos at Walmart.
Those are my observations and opinions. Again, I am painting with broad brushstrokes to make a point. No doubt, there are non-craft drinkers who are very health conscious. Lord knows there are plenty of craft beer drinkers who are very unhealthy. I am not judging anyone.
Epilogue: Beer-Life Balance
Most of the time, I strive for a certain amount of objectivity on the Washington Beer Blog and rarely do I make a story about me; after all, this is a news and information blog and not a personal blog.
Allow me to make this personal for a moment.
If you have ever met me, you know that I should not be throwing stones at glass houses. I have my own issues and have not been a posterchild for healthy living until recently. In the past 12 months I’ve lost 70 pounds. There’s still plenty more for me to lose, but I’m committed to the process. I have my goals and will keep working hard to reach them.
I have not accomplished this with smoke and mirrors. No liquid fasting, no invasive surgery, no parlor tricks. I’ve done it with lots of hard work and some logical, painless dietary changes. I did not stop drinking beer. Not by a long shot.
I am about to start chronicling my journey with the hopes of inspiring and motivating people like me. People who struggle with their weight, in part, because they love beer.
It’s all about establishing a healthy beer-life balance. In the coming months I’m going to launch a new website: beerlifebalance.com. There is a number out there, and when I reach it the new website will come to life. I have my own goals, but as for the forthcoming website, my only goal is to help my fellow beer drinkers find balance between beer and health.
*The numbers about overweight and obese Americans is according to statistics from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
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