Abstaining from alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of depression, according to a new study published in Addiction journal.
It has long been recognized that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poor physical and mental health. However, there has been mounting evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption may also be associated with poor mental health possibly because of abstainers' having other health problems or being reformed heavy drinkers.
The study used data from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study based in Norway, which includes information on the drinking habits and mental health of more than 38,000 individuals. The authors were able to show that individuals who reported drinking no alcohol over a two-week period were more likely than moderate drinkers to report symptoms of depression.
Those individuals who labeled themselves as "abstainers" were at the highest risk of depression. Other factors, such as age, physical health problems, and number of close friends could explain some but not all of this increased risk.
The authors also had access to reported levels of alcohol consumption 10 years before the main survey. This showed that 14 percent of current abstainers had previously been heavy drinkers, but this did not explain all of the increased risk of depression amongst abstainers.
The authors concluded that, in societies in which some alcohol use is the norm, abstinence may be associated with being socially marginalized or particular personality traits that also may be associated with mental illness.