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Drinking a Bad Mood Away may Translate to Higher Risk for Clinical Depression and Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence and major depression have been found to co-occur in individuals and families at increasing rates. A new study looked into how mood-related motives for drinking may explain the overlapping familial predisposition for MD and AD. Findings of the said research suggest that “individuals with strong mood-related drinking motives, especially those based on negative feelings, may be vulnerable to developing both MD and AD.” The results of this study are going to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research in its August issue.

While the co-occurrence of AD and MD is widely recognized, the links between the two disorders tend to vary across different individuals, says Kelly Young-Wolff, author of the master’s thesis that provided the stimulus for the research. “There are likely multiple mechanisms that result in the disorders co-occurring, for example, having MD increases the risk to develop AD, having AD increases the risk to develop MD; and causal factors – such as genetic risk or social circumstances – also contribute to developing both disorders.”

Psychiatry professor Victor Hesselbrock of the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine added that the association between the two conditions can also differ according to gender. “Studies of both clinical and community samples have found that primary depression – depression occurs first, followed by alcoholism – is more typical in females while primary alcoholism – alcoholism followed by depression – is more common among males. Furthermore, while most persons affected with alcoholism do report a lifetime history of significant depressive symptoms, the reverse is not true. Most people with depression do not report long periods of heavy drinking or do they report significant numbers of lifetime AD symptoms.”

Young-Wolff pointed out that previous studies have already shown that people with above average scores for mood-related drinking are also at an increased risk for developing alcohol dependence. There are also established evidences pointing to familial risk factors such as genetics or shared social environments contributing to the risk of co-occurring MD and AD.

The results of this particular study suggest that “the familial factors that underlie mood-related drinking motives are the same factors that contribute to the overlapping risk for MD and AD,” says Young-Wolff. “The results are consistent with an indirect role for mood-related drinking motives in risk for depression and AD, and suggest that individuals with strong mood-related drinking motives may be vulnerable to developing both MD and AD”

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