Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Drinking and depression - does abstinence make the heart grow stronger?

Heavy drinking can lead to poorer physical and mental health but there is increasing evidence to suggest that low levels of alcohol consumption might also be associated with psychological problems. This could be because teetotallers were heavy drinkers at one point and have now had to give up, or because they have other - non-alcohol-related health problems - that stop them from drinking and might also lead to depression. Researchers used information from the Nord-Troendelag Health Study covering over 38,000 Norwegians and found that those people who said that they had drunk no alcohol over the last two weeks were more likely to report symptoms of depression. Those people who referred to themselves as 'abstainers' were at the highest risk of depression. 14% of those who were currently teetotal had previously been heavy drinkers but this did not explain all the increased risk of depression in this group and neither did age or physical health problems. The authors thought that abstinence could either be caused by, or result in, social marginalisation in societies where alcohol use is the norm or that teetotallers might have other personality traits in common that predisposed them towards depression.

You can find out more about this research at


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