Study Shows Alcohol Does Not Cause Depression
For years, alcohol was believed to be a causal factor for depression, especially if the alcohol consumption was excessive.
However, according to a recently published study, this belief is false.
The link between alcohol and depression was never a scientifically proven one; it was merely based on observation that a large number of heavy drinkers were also depressed. The observational data rarely included other possible depressive factors, such as whether a person smoked, was malnourished or had an illness.
Then, some researchers from The University of Western Australia had a conversation that went something like, “Hey, why don’t we search for a causal link between alcohol consumption and depression by looking at physiological pathways? We could examine the genetic mutation that is most closely associated with the body’s metabolism of alcohol.”
They did this by collecting data from 3,873 elderly male participants over a three- to eight-year period.
The scientists decided to look at a genetic variation that affects an enzyme responsible for metabolizing or breaking down alcohol. This variation manufactures an enzyme that is up to 80 times less capable of breaking down alcohol.
People who are born with this genetic variation have bodies that do not tolerate alcohol well. They consume it less, and therefore have less alcohol-related problems.
“Now, if alcohol causes depression,” said researcher Osvaldo Almeida, “then a genetic variation that reduces alcohol use and alcohol-related disorders, should reduce the risk of depression.”
“We found ... that this particular genetic variant was associated with reduced alcohol use, but it had no association with depression whatsoever.”
“The conclusion is that alcohol use neither causes nor prevents depression in older men. Our results also debunk the view that mild to moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of depression.”
Still, Moderation Is Best
The researchers believe the observational link between alcohol use and depression is likely explained by factors other than the alcohol itself.
However, Almeida warns that his research does not make it safe for people to over-imbibe alcohol, because other health problems can result from excessive alcohol intake. It just so happens that depression, according to Almeida’s study, is not one of them.