The latest critique by The ISFAR considers recent research linking alcohol consumption to depression

The latest critique by The ISFAR considers recent research linking alcohol consumption to depression

There is a large amount of literature linking heavy alcohol consumption to depression: Most studies show that heavy drinkers tend to be depressed, and that depressed people may self-medicate with large amounts of alcohol.

A recent prospective study of subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease has shown that “moderate” drinkers, especially wine drinkers (the majority of their subjects), were at lower risk of developing depression during seven years of follow up than were non-drinkers. An important aspect of this study is that the analyses were based on moderate drinkers, as people exceeding certain amounts of alcohol or testing positive on the CAGE questionnaire (a measure of alcohol misuse) were excluded.

Strengths of the study include it being a large prospective study, with more than 5,000 subjects, aged 55-80 years at baseline, who were followed for up to seven years for the initial development of clinical depression (which was diagnosed in 443 instances). Especially important was the ability of the investigators to have repeated assessments of alcohol consumption, every two years.

A rather complete list of potentially confounding variables was available. The key findings of the study were that subjects reporting >5-15 grams per day of total alcohol intake, and wine drinkers of 2-7 drinks per week, were at a lower risk of developing depression than were non-drinkers.

Some forum members remained concerned that there may have been residual confounding by other lifestyle habits, and that the results may apply primarily to subjects who are also following a Mediterranean-type diet and lifestyle. Also, data to evaluate the relationship between heavy drinking or alcoholism and depression was not available.

However, the authors provide good scientific support for their conclusions that subjects reporting >5-15 grams per day of total alcohol intake (from about 0.5 to 1.5 of a typical drink), and wine drinkers of 2-7 drinks per week, are at approximately 30% lower risk of developing depression than are abstainers of alcohol.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.