According to a statistical modelling study, alcohol abuse may heighten the risk of developing depression. This is the opposite of a previous model that suggests individuals suffering from depression use alcohol to self-medicate. The findings of the new study are going to be published in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
According to the background information on the research, a number of previous studies have already linked alcohol abuse or dependence with major depression but it is still unclear whether it’s the disorder that causes the other or if there are underlying environmental or genetic risk factors for both conditions.
The study used data that was taken from a 25-year health and development study in New Zealand. A team led by David M. Fergusson from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences looked into the links between the depression and alcoholism. They assessed 1,055 participants who were born in 1977 for both conditions from ages 17 to 25. They were also interviewed on their lifestyle and other demographic characteristics.
The study found that, “at all ages, alcohol abuse or dependence was associated with an increased risk of major depression – those who fulfilled the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence were 1.9 times more likely to also fulfil the criteria for major depression.”
After gathering the information for various age brackets, the researchers used three models for the data. The first one shows that depression and alcoholism had reciprocal associations, the second one says that alcoholism causes depression and the third is for major depression leading to alcohol abuse. The authors write that the analysis suggest “the best-fitting model was one in which there was a unidirectional association from alcohol abuse or dependence to major depression but no reverse effect from major depression to alcohol abuse or dependence.”
The researchers further wrote that the mechanisms that give rise to the association are still unclear. It is possible that genetic processes can influence the risk for major depression among alcoholics. There are also the depressant characteristics of alcohol that can also lead to the condition among those who continue to incessantly drink.
Causal links may also include risk of depression brought about by stressful circumstances that alcohol problems cause – such as legal, financial and social concerns. The authors recommend that further research be conducted on this finding.
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