Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Teetotalers More Likely To Be Depressed Than Moderate Drinkers

Date:
August 28, 2009
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
When it comes to alcohol consumption and depression, a new study shows that heavy drinkers -- but also teetotalers -- have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who drink moderately. The happiest people were those who averaged about two glasses of alcohol per week.

When it comes to alcohol consumption and depression, a new study by a team of Norwegian and British researchers shows that heavy drinkers – but also teetotalers -- have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who drink moderately.

The study, "Anxiety and depression among abstainers and low-level alcohol consumers. The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study", was published in the most recent issue of Addiction, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Society for the Study of Addiction.

A long-standing mystery

Researchers have long struggled with a counterintuitive psychological mystery: While it’s believable that heavy drinkers might be depressed, study after study shows that people who don’t drink at all also have high levels of depression and anxiety. But why?

One working hypothesis has been that the depression recorded in groups that include teetotalers – people who don’t drink at all -- may be due to the fact that this group can include people who quit drinking because of alcoholism. If abstainers who quit drinking because it was a problem could be excluded from the larger group of non-drinkers, the results might be different.

A team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University of Bergen, a number of Norwegian public health organizations and Kings College, London set out to test this idea. The team used information from a questionnaire in which 38, 390 residents of a county in mid-Norway – fully 41 percent of the county’s population -- described their general physical and mental health, along with typical alcohol use over a two-week period. The questionnaire was a part of a long-term physical and mental health study of virtually all residents of Nord-Trøndelag County, called HUNT, which started in 1984. The questionnaire was conducted during HUNT's second phase, between 1995-1997.

The researchers found that even when they removed people from their study who had quit drinking because of problems with alcohol, the general findings held true: heavy drinkers and non-drinkers were more likely to be anxious and depressed than those who drink moderately. All told, 17.3 per cent of abstainers reported anxiety, while 15.8 per cent reported depression.

The happiest people, in contrast, were those who averaged about two glasses of alcohol per week, where a glass of alcohol represents one bottle of beer, or a glass of wine, or a shot of strong spirits.

Solving the puzzle

The questionnaire also allowed researchers to determine the general health of respondents, which might explain the links between depression and alcohol intake.

“We found on average that there were more people with physical complaints among the non-drinkers than in the other groups”, says Eystein Stordal, an adjunct professor at NTNU’s Department of Neuroscience, and one of the study's authors. “These individuals are more likely to use medicines that mean they shouldn’t drink. But it may also be true that having such an illness increases a person’s tendency to be anxious or depressed.”

Researchers also found that non-drinkers reported having fewer friends than drinkers did, which might explain their increased odds of being depressed.

“We see that this group is less socially well-adjusted than other groups”, Stordal says. “Generally when people are with friends, it is more acceptable in Western societies to drink than not to drink.  While the questionnaire recorded non-drinkers’ subjective perception of the situation, a number of other studies also confirm that teetotalers experience some level of social exclusion. ”

Potential public health consequences

Nearly 12 per cent of the survey participants described themselves as abstainers, while another 22 per cent were non-consumers. Alcohol abstainers were also more often female and older, and reported more health problems than non-consumers and mid-range consumers.

The researchers noted that because abstinence is more common in Western societies compared to harmful drinking habits, the potential public health impacts of these findings could be great. “In the case of depression, the odds of depression (in people who labeled themselves abstainers) were higher than even the heaviest alcohol consumers,” the authors wrote. “In a society where use of alcohol is the norm, abstinence might be associated with being socially marginalized and at increased risk for mental disorders.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Skogen et al. Anxiety and depression among abstainers and low-level alcohol consumers. The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study. Addiction, 2009; 104 (9): 1519 DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02659.x

Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Teetotalers More Likely To Be Depressed Than Moderate Drinkers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827123518.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2009, August 28). Teetotalers More Likely To Be Depressed Than Moderate Drinkers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827123518.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Teetotalers More Likely To Be Depressed Than Moderate Drinkers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827123518.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins