Sharing a round of drinks also helped them open up and talk about their emotions and lift their spirits, say researchers.
The study, led by the Medical Research Council, focused on men aged 30-35 in the West of Scotland who drank in groups in pubs.
Researcher Dr Carol Emslie asked men about their drinking habits and was ‘surprised’ when they said pub visits benefitted their mental health.
She said: ‘The most surprising thing was the way drinking opened up a space for men to behave in alternative ways that aren’t associated with masculinity.
‘There was the idea if you’ve had a few drinks it really helps you to express emotion in a way you might not in your everyday life.
‘I did not ask about mental health, this they raised themselves.
‘There is a stereotype that men are strong and silent about their mental health and it is something they never talk about.
‘This wasn’t what we found. It was very much the idea that alcohol or drinking in these communal groups had this positive effect on your mental health.
‘You’re drinking together, you’re laughing and joking and it’s uplifting. It helps you to open up and relax. Also men talked about it being a way of looking out for each other.’
Indeed,one of the men in the study said going to the pub was a good opportunity for people who did not usually ‘open up’ to do so under the influence of alcohol.
He added that if he didn’t have the opportunity, he might ‘unravel in a big way’.
However the study also acknowledges that buying rounds encouraged men to drink more, with many of those questioned consuming harmful amounts of alcohol.
It is hoped that the findings will help inform new approaches to reduce dangerous drinking levels, while understanding the more positive effects of alcohol.
Dr Emslie, now based at Glasgow Caledonian University said the findings should help to tackle harmful drinking while acknowledging the positives.
‘It is a delicate balance because we have got this problematic side with alcohol,’ she added.
‘But also there is the pleasure and what men talked about as being uplifting, crucial, natural and positive, and a way to show concern and friendship to other men.
‘We need to address the cultural side of drinking. We have to understand drinking is pleasurable, it’s sociable, it’s central to friendships.
‘If you ignore that part of it then you are not understanding the context in which people drink.
‘The way men talked about looking after each other is something we could build on in terms of interventions.’
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘The government is supportive of well run pubs where people can enjoy socialising with friends and family.
But Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, warned: ‘Drinking together in the pub may be a positive way for men to build relationships and seek support from each other, as long as this isn’t at the expense of a damaged liver or other health problems.
‘Men are far more likely to drink heavily and to die from alcohol-related causes than women, particularly in middle-age.
‘However the research highlights the need to address high levels of drinking by middle-aged men.’