Is there a link between the moderate consumption of alcohol and depression?
I. The Research
Researchers wanted to learn the effects of drinking. Specifically, drinking throughout early to middle adulthood and depression at age 50.
They compared the effects consistent abstinence to the following.
- Occasional drinkers.
- Moderate drinkers.
- Heavy drinkers.
They did so by analyzing data collected from 1994. It was from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. That’s when respondents were 29-37 years old.
Alcohol consumption was measured in 1994, 2002, and 2006. Workers had also tested for depression.
II. The Findings
Those who were consistently occasional or moderate drinkers had less less depression at age 50. That is, compared to abstainers. Consistent heavy drinkers were comparable to abstainers.
Another study found this link between alcohol and depression scores. The higher the score, the greater the depression.
- Abstainers 6.11
- Light drinkers 5.87
- Light-moderate drinkers 5.48
- Moderate drinkers 4.71
- Heavy drinkers 6.37
That is, they found a J-shaped pattern. Abstainers had one level of scores. Light to moderate drinkers had lower levels than abstainers. And heavy drinkers had an even higher score than abstainers.
III. Resources: Alcohol and Depression
Symptoms of Depression
- Sadness or hopelessness.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Sleeping too much or not enough.
- Loss of interest or pleasure.
- Lack of energy.
- Frustation or irritability.
- Making “mountains out of mole hills.”
- Trouble making decisions.
- Weight loss or gain.
- Great anxiety or agitation.
- Thinking about suicide. (See Note below.)
Visontay, R. et al. Moderate alcohol consumption and depression. Am J Psych, 2023.
Alcohol and Health. Facts for Health and Long Life.
What Is Moderate Drinking?
The U.S. government considers moderate drinking this way. For women, it is having three drinks in any one day. But no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it’s having four drinks on any day. But no more than 14 drinks per week. However it varies greatly around the world.
Gemes, K. et al. Moderate alcohol consumption and depression. Acta Psych Scan, 2019, 139(6), 526-35.
Liang, L. et al. Low-to-moderate alcohol intake associated with lower risk of depressive symptoms. J Affect Behave Dis, 2021, 286. 49-57.
Lipton, R. The effect of moderate alcohol use: depression. Am J Pub Health, 1994, 84(12), 1913-17.
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